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Posts Tagged “Proverbs”

In his Monday Morning Memo on April 15th, Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting wrote this:

Every day we write the story of our lives, a continuing autobiography. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot! Some of us are rooted in a poverty mentality, as if we’re trying merely to survive; some are in stability, feeling alive; some have an abundance mentality, feeling it’s good to arrive; and a few are in self-mastery, believing they can thrive. As we ascend, the key is to avoid sliding back, and to create water-tight, closed doors behind us. How interesting is your story? You can still change it.

I don’t know if Alan Weiss is a Christian. His Monday Morning Memos are directed to the business community. I couldn’t help but recognize the spiritual implications of his memo, however. As Christians, we know that God has created us for a purpose and that He works the circumstances in our lives to bring us into those purposes…if we pursue Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The enemy, however, has one goal – to derail us from the path God has created for us. His first tactic in achieving that goal is to keep us from spending eternity with God. When he fails at that, his tactics change from keeping us from heaven to minimizing the impact we can have while here on earth – to keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes for our lives. He does that by convincing us to believe lies about who we are and who God is.

  • He gives us a poverty mentality, when the truth is that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).
  • He makes us comfortable in a stability mentality – we’re alive and enjoying our Christian culture…and we’re happy to settle there. That’s enough. No, it’s not. God calls us to more. In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul write to Timothy “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge your duties of our ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV) Paul wrote this shortly before his death. He wrote just a few verses later that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, and because of that, there was a crown of righteous waiting for him – a crown that would be presented to him by the Lord. Wow! You may not be a preacher. You may not be an evangelist. But Paul’s message to Timothy applies to you. Whatever God has called you to do, continue in it. Discharge the duties of the ministry God has given you. Don’t become complacent.
  • He gives us an abundance, and with that comes the temptations of  “pride in our achievements and possessions.” But “this world is fading away… But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)
  • He distracts us with pursuing success for the sake of success and the temptations of personal glory. This is what I take from Weiss’ description of “self-mastery.” As we pursue success by the world’s standards, we can easily in our own ability to achieve our destiny. We no longer depend on God for all things, but are confident in our own ability to thrive. We’re to do all things as if unto God (1 Peter 4:10-11), which means we ought to approach all things with excellence, but we’re to rely on Him in the doing. We’re not to rely on our own abilities, our own wisdom, our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Friends, God has gone to tremendous lengths to save us. He works continually in our lives – and that means in our circumstances – to work all things together for good if we continue in our love for him and in pursuing the purposes He has for our lives. Let’s make the story we are writing every day bring glory to Him and echo through eternity long after we’re with Him.

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A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.
Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

It All Started with Phil
About a year ago, my husband came to me with a conviction that we should begin to prepare for a future that might be much different than the life we live now. We started on the journey of becoming what are commonly called “preppers.” Preppers are people who are actively preparing themselves to be able to ride out an emergency or disaster. What type of emergency they anticipate affects (or perhaps dictates) the types of preparations they make.

This isn’t our first rodeo. Phil and I did a bit of prepping during the Y2K scare. Because we made our living with our computers, we recognized the potential for disaster with a global computer malfunction, did some research, and prepared accordingly. While nothing came from Y2K, Phil has felt that it was a training ground or “dress rehearsal” for some future event. And Y2K was a time when I learned the value of having a well-stocked pantry. Prior to that, I had kept very little food in the house and any time I needed something, I ran to the store to get it. Now I love being able to run to the pantry – saves time and doesn’t require boots, coats and gasoline!

But I digress. When Phil first brought up the subject last year I didn’t take him seriously. So he dropped the subject, but kept researching on his own and began to make small prepping purchases within our budget. After awhile he brought up the subject again, with more directness and urgency. I was quickly overwhelmed. So we set it aside for a few days until we had the opportunity to sit together and he could lay out what he was thinking, why he was thinking it, and what he thought we ought to be doing.

I Got It
I was convinced.

The world is rapidly changing. Any of a number of things can go wrong which could drastically impact our lifestyle. The probability of any of them happening is…well, experts disagree on that point. But what was the probability of Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy? What was the probability of our economic depression of the past few years and what is the probability of a second one in the near term? What is the probability of a major crisis of the power grid or the financial world systems?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but beginning to prepare for a world that is drastically different from the one I live in now makes sense. Scripture makes it clear that the world will experience upheaval before Christ returns. Society will not continue as we know it prior to His second coming. What is the probability that will happen in my lifetime? Again, I don’t know the answer to that question. But I know that more and more frequently we are saying “Jesus is coming soon!” in response to strange things happening in the world.

I am not predicting the end of the world. There was absolutely no credence to the speculation that the world would end on December 21, as the Mayan calendar seemed to indicate. Nor do I believe in an impending Zombie Apocalypse. What I am saying is that there is a probability – perhaps a high probability – that the world will suffer some kind of devastation in my lifetime. And I want to do what makes sense to alleviate suffering for those in my family and those around me.

I’m not trying to instill fear in you. Rather, I see this as an exciting opportunity for the Church to be the Church. Imagine the tremendous impact we can have if we are able to provide food, heat and water to others when those things aren’t readily available!

Why Now?
Why am I writing about this now? Because a couple of weeks ago I read about God turning the Nile to blood in Egypt and this lesson screamed in my brain – things can change in an instant! In an instant, the people had no water. People can live only a week without water (give or take a few days depending on lots of factors). At some point which will surprise all of us, water could become scarce.

I’m not the only one beginning (or continuing) to declare the message that it is time to prepare. There are others that are also taking steps now, but for one reason or another most people aren’t going public with their preparations. While it’s not a prominent message from most pulpits, there are many who are hearing and speaking the warning. Add me to the ranks.

As such, Phil and I are praying about starting a blog that talks simply and directly about preparing for a world that is different from ours. More to come on that one.

Last year Phil kept saying “I just keep hearing the message over and over – start preparing.” Now I’m hearing the same message, in slightly different words. “Get ready!” is the message I’m hearing over and over.

Spiritual Implications
Getting ready has many facets. First and foremost, we must be ready spiritually. Our focus this month in the Living God’s Heart series has been repentance. It is the best place to start – by agreeing with God that we have sinned, asking His forgiveness for those sins and then living the way He wants us to live.

Getting ready and growing spiritually is what Apprehending Grace Ministries is all about – continually reaching to grasp all that God has for us. Sometimes that reaching means hard work and sometimes it means sitting at the feet of Jesus and letting him love and teach us. (Yes, I know – just sitting can be pretty hard work for many of us.)

Getting ready also means preparing in the natural. My sister lives in a place where they occasionally experience hurricanes. They live prepared for that future natural disaster that may hit their area. When one comes close they ramp up their preparations. They increase supplies of food and water and they put up the pieces of plywood they’ve cut to fit their windows. Similarly, we need to prepare for that time when life is much different from what it is now. That’s the message God is giving my husband and me – the storms are drawing closer, it’s time to increase preparations. It’s time to get ready.

What Can You Do Now?
The subject of preparing for a future disaster is huge. There are many elements to it. That’s what our new website will be about. It’s a big challenge and you may not see anything for a couple of months. In the meantime, here are some things you can do:

Pray – When you see news reports that tempt you to become disgusted with our government or say negative things about it, pray instead. We are to pray for those in authority over us – whether we agree with them or not. Pray that God will give our leaders wisdom and courage and integrity. Pray that our government will be full of men and women who seek God’s will regularly.

Pray – When you see the continuing moral decay in our nation, pray that God would bring revival to His church. Repent that we have not held up His standard of righteousness during our generation but have instead allowed the culture to change us more than we have impacted our culture. Pray that God would have compassion on our country.

Pray – For wisdom. Ask God about the validity of this message. Is He beginning to whisper in your ear that it’s time to “get ready”? If you’re like me, you’ll need to hear the message a couple of times before it takes hold. Pray!

Don’t be afraid. Don’t live in fear. Regardless of what happens in the coming days, God is in control. If you are tempted to fear, purposefully rest in God. Purposefully meditate on His goodness and His power and His majesty.

Look up for your redemption draws near! Satan rules this world for now, but a day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

To God be the glory.

Watch this space for more info on getting ready for the coming day when life is no longer as it is today.

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By guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.
(Philippians 4:12)

We live in a world of “more.” Pick any topic you want and the general consensus is bigger, faster, higher, just….more.” From TV shows to sports to our looks to our jobs to how much money we make to our possessions, we have this sense that somehow we have to out-do what we did yesterday, last month, last year – that if we have more, get more do more, see more , say more, are more, life would be better somehow. As a whole, we are in a state of discontent, dangling the proverbial carrot in front of ourselves with the thought, “I would be happier if… (Fill in the blank).” And because we often try to fill the voids in our lives with the wrong “filler” (that’s where the godliness needs to come in), when the newness of what we acquired or accomplished wears off we find ourselves wanting….well, “more.”

The Bible says “contentment with Godliness is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6). The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (Philippians 4:12)

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we shouldn’t want to be happy. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to have a better world or a better life, or that we shouldn’t work toward improving ourselves and the situations around us. And I’m not saying that it is wrong to have possessions. As I once heard someone say, “It’s not wrong to have things as long as things don’t have us.” I also read somewhere “if you aren’t happy with what you have, you won’t be happy with what you get.”

What I am saying is that I believe it is possible in God’s economy to be seeking, hoping, wanting and working toward that “better tomorrow” and yet be perfectly content with today. In other words, we can be content with where we are and where we are headed at the same time. Each day is a gift. The Psalmist writes, “This is the day the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)  Also, as the saying goes, sometimes “The joy is in the journey.” I am sure we have all set out for a specific destination (both literally and figuratively), only to find upon arrival that it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as we had imagined. But oh the things that happened along the way, the lives we touched and the ones that touched ours. The “getting there” far outweighed the importance and impact of the arrival.

I guess if we insist on wanting “more”, why not go for more contentment and go for it today (kind of defeats the idea if we put it off until tomorrow or next week). I would like to offer some “helps” that aid us in our quest for contentment.

  1. Take God at His Word. Scripture says He knows our needs even before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)
  2. God promises that He has “given us everything we need for life and for godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
  3. Scripture says that the blameless will “lack no good thing.” (Psalm  84:11)
  4. If God is for us, who or what can be against us.
  5. With God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27)
  6. We, like Paul, can do all things through Christ who gives us Strength. (Philippians 4:13)
  7. A man plans his course, but God orders his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
  8. God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. (Joshua 1:5)
  9. Jesus himself said the Father holds his children in the palm of His hand and nothing can snatch us out. (John 10:28)

Well, if you are like me, you have tasted slices of contentment here and there, but haven’t enjoyed that sweet taste on a regular basis. I think I’m ready to go for the whole “pie.” Holy Spirit teach me as I head back to school to “learn the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Let it come to pass Lord.

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9Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NKJV)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Jabez. His name literally means “he will cause pain.” That’s what his mama named him, presumably after a difficult birth. I’ve been wondering how that affected him emotionally as he was growing up. Knowing that he’d been named “he will cause pain” – and undoubtedly personalizing it to “I will cause pain” – must have been painful mantel to wear every day of every year of his life. “Of course it must be true,” our Enemy would scream into his mind, “because your mama said so…And you’ve already done so, hurting the one person you say you love more than anyone.” Our enemy can wreak havoc with our minds and emotions and ultimately our life if we listen to him.

We recently read this verse 1 Peter in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

The enemy has been on the prowl lately. Have you heard the news reports lately?

  • “58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”
  • “Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”
  • “More than a dozen deaths in US caused by Sandy”
  • “Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”
  • “Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”
  • “The Wrath of Sandy”

I’m an adult and I understand that I haven’t caused any of this – they’ve simply named a hurricane after me. Yet each time I hear a news report or read a headline it has jolted my brain – feeling to my brain somewhat like a hard slap in the face. So I’ve been feeling a bit of a kinship with Jabez these last few days.

And God has used the experience to experientially teach me some things that I’d already learned from reading Scripture. That’s called reinforcement. It’s not pleasant but it seals the teaching in our spirits.

Words have impact and that impact has the power to change and shape one’s reality. Just as the New Jersey shore has been impacted by the waves and its shape has been significantly changed by the erosion of the beach and the destruction of roads and bridges, one who is the subject of hurtful words is subject to the effects of those words – the erosion of their confidence and destruction of their dreams.

Scripture says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, NASB). We have the power to both destroy and give life with the words we say. Hearing repeatedly over the past few days that “Sandy” has brought devastation into millions of lives has not had a life-giving affect on me. Similarly telling a child he isn’t good for anything (or at anything) will not have a life-giving effect on him. Just like telling ourselves that we’re not good for anything or we can’t do anything right is not life-giving. Those words have the power of death.

Just as words can cause death, they can also bring life. We can pray and speak words that counter any and all words the enemy is using for destruction. Jabez’s prayer is simple and interesting. He prays “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10, KJV) Jabez very specifically speaks words of life to refute the words of death that he hears every time someone calls him by name. “Lord, bless me. Help me to do well. Keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil. Keep me from causing any pain.”

“Jabez, would you…” a friend might have said.
“You, the one who causes pain, would you…” is what Jabez might have heard.

So he fought back – in the spiritual realm. “Lord, change my reality – make me one who does not cause pain. Bless me so that I might be a blessing to others.” You might say “Sandy, you’ve added that last phrase. It isn’t in Jabez’s prayer. He didn’t pray anything about being a blessing to others.” No, he didn’t. But the short discussion of Jabez begins with the phrase “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9, KJV). An honorable man (or woman) is generous (following God’s laws and His heart). It is totally within the context of the few verses to presume that Jabez’s heart’s desire was to be a blessing to others.

I am blessed – my mama named me “helper of mankind.” That’s what my name means. Yet this week I’ve been hearing about all the horrible things my namesake is doing. So I am beginning to fight back as Jabez did. When I hear or read the headlines, I am turning them around:

“58 deaths in the Caribbean attributed to Sandy”

“Lord, may I bring life to 58 people in the Caribbean. I don’t now how that might happen, but nothing is impossible with God.”

“Sandy wreaks devastation – utter devastation in New Jersey”

“Lord, may I be a blessing in some way to the state of New Jersey? Enlarge my territory so that I may give more. Enlarge my influence so that I may have a greater impact for good.”

“Raging fire destroys at least 80 homes”

“Lord, may I be a builder and not a destroyer. Lord, use me to ignite a fire of passion for You that spreads faster than the raging fire of New Jersey.”

“Sandy could potentially affect more than 66 million Americans”

“Lord, enlarge my influence so that I may affect more than 66 million Americans for good, not for harm. It sounds like foolishness to my ears to even ask such a thing, Lord. But You tell us to ask, so I ask to be an influence for the Kingdom of God in a greater measure than I can imagine. My namesake is affecting these people for evil. Use me, Lord, to affect an even greater number for good.”

“The Wrath of Sandy”

“Lord, keep me from wrath. May my life be marked with the joy of the Lord and a consistent outward display of the love of God.”

Whew! Those are some pretty lofty prayers – prayers that even scare me; prayers that sound impossible and foolish to me. But I believe God answers prayers and I believe He encourages us to pray lofty prayers with lofty ambitions. So I, whose name means helper of mankind, choose to speak words of life to myself, to pray words of life over my life and ministry, and to believe for those words to have an impact – both in this world and in the next.

[Jesus is speaking:] Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
John 16:24 (NASB)

What words spoken against you do you need to reverse by praying life instead death?

PS: While Storm Sandy has been trying to wreak havoc in my emotions, she is definitely wreaking havoc in the northeast United States. Please pray for the victims. If you are able to help, giving to any of the following organizations is a good thing:

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I have been captured by the song Word of God Speak by MercyMe this week. You can read about it in yesterday’s blog. You can purchase the CD here.

In yesterday’s blog, I included a YouTube video that intermingles images and Scriptures while the song plays in the background. The video includes great verses about God’s Word, but as the video was ending,  I realized that the song brought a different verse to my mind:

Where there is no vision (revelation, prophetic vision, divine guidance), the people perish (cast off restraint, run wild), but happy are those who keep the law (whoever obeys the law is joyful).
Proverbs 29:18

The Word of God brings vision, revelation and divine guidance. Even when He is speaking discipline, that discipline comes wrapped in a package that includes vision for a better future – that we can be more than we are currently pursuing. It holds the hope of what can come next and the promise that God will help us get there.

By the way, that’s the difference between condemnation from the enemy and conviction from the Holy Spirit. When the enemy speaks it is in condemnation and it doesn’t come packaged with the vision for a better future. It doesn’t come wrapped in hope and a promise for help. It comes wrapped only in accusation, the sense of defeat and assurance of destruction. And in the face of such a future, we cast off restraint and step into that future of defeat.

When God speaks, good things happen:

1. Hope arises in our heart as we glimpse God’s vision. When He speaks, we begin to understand things from God’s perspective.

“He cares enough to speak to me, even though I have failed Him.”

“He has a vision for my future even when my sight is blurred or failing.”

“With Him, I can become the man/woman He wants me to be.”

“He has a part for me to play – a role in His eternal plan.”

2. Faith is ignited in our spirit when His Word speaks to us.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

3. Faith brings an increased measure of grace into our lives enabling us to hold onto and step into God’s vision. Our God is a God of the future. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but He forgives the past and enables the future. When He speaks, His message offers us an opportunity to enter into that future – that vision He has given.

Word of God speak. To me. To my readers. To Your people. We need to hear Your voice. We need Your prophetic vision. We need it to instill us with hope, increase our faith and activate grace in our lives.

We need these things because without them – without hope, without faith and without God’s grace, we see and hear only what the enemy is doing around us and whispering in our ears (“failure”, “defeat”, “no way out”) and sensing defeat we cast off restraint. We run wild because we don’t see God’s vision and our part in it. And we run into our own destruction.

Word of God Speak.

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Firm Foundation Brick wallby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

Yesterday’s blog looked at some of the things we might be tempted to build our lives on…things that we soon find don’t stand up to the storms of life.

Now let’s look at some pillars we can use to build a firm foundation. Let’s travel in the Scriptures to Ephesians chapter 6 and what is commonly called “the armor of God”. Verses 10-13 say this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

Let’s look more closely at our armor:

Belt of Truth
It’s been said if you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said. Since “the devil is the father of lies” and “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44), if our lives are filled with anything less than the truth, essentially they are built on him (the devil). However, if we are bound by God’s truth, John’s gospel says that will set us free (vs. 32). I don’t know about you, but when I don’t physically wear a belt with my jeans, they tend to want to fall down. I would say the same about our lives and the “belt of God’s truth”. It truly will help to hold us together!

Breastplate of Righteousness
If we were to imagine a real suit of armor we would see that, along with other body parts, the breastplate covers the heart. Proverbs instructs us: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4:23). A life of righteousness, or “rightness,” according to God and his will, protects our heart from the ravages and disappointments of sin. Just as weeds choke out the good plants in the garden, sinfulness chokes the life out of the goodness God wants us to have in our hearts. As David prayed may we too “hide his Word in our hearts, so that we would not sin against him” (Psalm 119:11).

Shield of Faith
Our cars are equipped with windshields, an umbrella shields us from the rain, and our deodorant shields us (and others) from odor. In other words, a shield is a protector. Scripture affirms that with a shield of faith, we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. When we live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we disarm two of Satan’s greatest weapons; doubt and discouragement. In Genesis, God saw Abraham’s faith (belief) “and credited it to him as righteousness” (15:6). He will do the same for us.

Helmet of Salvation
The helmet, obviously, is a covering for the head. Far too often, we allow Satan to trick our minds into questioning or doubting our salvation, resulting in the loss of the joy that should be present in all those who are the redeemed of the Lord. The Scripture says that if we “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31), “believe and are baptized” (Mark 16:16), “confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), we will be saved. If we truly know and believe we are saved, it will change how we live.

Sword of the Spirit (Word of God)
Satan has no defense against the power of God’s Word. When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, every time Satan opened his mouth with a temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture. He didn’t yell or threaten or call down fire from heaven. He simply said, “It is written” and quoted God’s truth from the Scripture. If it worked for Jesus, it will work for us. Satan doesn’t have to obey us no matter how loud or sincere or threatening we try to be. But he does have to obey God.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7, NIV

Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

God provides all we need to develop a strong, firm foundation – one that doesn’t crack, crumble or fall. But unless we cling to those pillars, unless we build upon them, there is nothing that can make our foundation firm.

Yesterday’s questions bear repeating: How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more false pillars?

Build your foundation on Jesus and practice putting on and using the full Armor of God every day. It will make the difference between losing and winning the battles you face.

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Cracked Foundation of Brick Wallsby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’
Isaiah 28:16, NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11, NIV

Some time ago our church offered to the congregation a “Foundations” Bible study series, a sort of “Christianity 101,” revisiting the basics of the Christian faith. We were hoping that it would be a valuable tool for those in our body that were “young” in the faith. Our desire was to give them that firm foundation upon which they could build their walk with Christ for generations to come.

The strange thing is that many of our “seasoned veterans” of the faith looked forward to plugging in as well. I guess you could say they wanted to “check the foundation” for cracks or leaks. After all, we do that for our physical homes don’t we? You don’t have to be a contractor to know that if the foundation crumbles, the rest of the house is sure to follow. The same is true spiritually. If our foundation is weak or has gaps, chances are at some point in time, when tested by the storms of life, our faith will crumble. If our hope is in anything but Christ Jesus, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 NIV, “I know whom I have believed, an am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” That’s the kind of faith and foundation I want. How about you?

Let’s take a quick look at five things we are easily tempted to build our foundation and faith upon other than Christ. Of course, none of these will stand up to the storms of life, so if our foundation is in one of these, it’s not a matter of if, but when, our lives will crumble around us.

Self
You’ve heard the old saying, “We have found the enemy, and it is us!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve sure found that to be true. The only thing that can really keep me from an intimate walk with God is ME! Satan can tempt all he wants, but he has no authority to make me do anything. This flesh, along with my feelings and emotions, just can’t be trusted. Besides, the best “game” I’ve got can’t hold a candle to the awesome power and wisdom of the most High God. I need Jesus’ resurrection power in my life. Truly Lord, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

Money
I don’t know where you do your banking, but mine’s got a hole in it! My money leaks out as fast (or faster) than I can put it in. And in case you haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers in the last year or so, fortunes have been lost because of economic downturns and uncertainties. The world economy has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. At best, money is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It can’t be trusted for the long haul. Easy come, easy go.

Religion
The Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were poster boys for what empty, powerless religion looks like. If you are like me and have tasted some of the same, you know it not only leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it certainly leaves you unfulfilled and wanting something more. Only Jesus satisfies, and a close, intimate relationship with Him will bring that deep abundant life that religion cannot deliver. Instead of just believing in something, I’d rather walk with Someone who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

Church Tradition
Just because we’ve “always done it that way” doesn’t automatically make it the way God would have us do it. We need to check everything we do to make sure it is founded upon Scripture and is Holy Spirit led and divinely appointed. God isn’t looking for good Methodists or Baptists or Catholics or Lutherans or any other denomination. He is looking for warriors, soldiers in the army of God, servants and followers who will seek His will, put on His armor, and rush headlong into battle against the enemy, at His command.

Popular Opinion
Sin is still sin even if everyone is doing it, and right is still right even if no one is doing it. God has never conducted an opinion poll. He, and He alone, is the Sovereign God. He gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. He doesn’t cut deals, or do favors, or just sweep things under the rug on the back porch. The Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). In the end, we will give an account to Him. God will not have to submit to the vote or opinion of the masses. Opinions ARE like belly buttons, everyone has got one, but in the end, God’s is the only one that counts – and the only one that can be counted on. Lead us, O Lord, in paths of righteousness.

I guess this leaves each of us with a question that begs an answer. How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more of the false pillars mentioned above? Those pillars will crumble and let us down.

Hang onto the Lord, friends. He is our solid foundation. Tomorrow we’ll look more closely at pillars that build that firm foundation in Christ. For today, I proclaim the words of the hymn by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury:

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10, NIV

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Resting at the River’s Edge provides an opportunity to participate in reading through the Bible in a systematic way. We’re following a two year plan (2012 and 2013) that has us reading the New Testament each year and the Old Testament stretched over the two years. Each month our reading plans also provide a column titled “Additional.” This column provides readings that will allow you to read through the entire Bible (that is, the complete Old and New Testaments) during the year 2012.

Join the conversation as we read together each month. E-mail me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. God has treasures for each of us as we read. Let’s share them!

Also, NEW in 2012 are our RARE bookmarks. Click on the link below to download them. Each bookmark provides two months of Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules and is great for tracking your readings. (We found an “oops” in the bookmarks we uploaded last month – we forgot to include Feb 29 in the schedule. The bookmarks have been updated to reflect the additional day we get this year.)

Use the tracking method that works best for you – the schedule provided in this blog, the downloadable half-page PDF or bookmark. All provide the same schedule.

I pray that you enjoy your time with God as you read each day.
Sandy

[button_round color=”purple” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Bookmark-2012-01Jan-Dec.pdf”] Download All 2012 Bookmarks Here [/button_round]

[button_round color=”purple” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Bookmark-2012-03Mar-Apr-1only.pdf”] Download only the March/April 2012 Bookmark Here [/button_round]

[button_round color=”blue” url=”http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/2012-03Mar-ReadingPlan.pdf”] Download a Half-Page PDF of the March Reading Plan Here [/button_round]

Here’s March’s reading plan:

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February 13-19, 2012 is RAKWeek – that’s Random Acts of Kindness Week for those of you who missed the memo.

I am a big fan of random acts of kindness, although I confess to not doing them as often as I’d like. I think they are a great way to soften people toward the Gospel. Christians are frequently viewed or portrayed as judgmental or negative (we shouldn’t be either, of course). Random acts of kindness combat that stereotype. That’s a good thing.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading Proverbs 11 and learned that kindness has another great benefit:

Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.
Proverbs 11: 17 (NLT)

We can nourish our souls in many ways, but being kind has a double kick – when I practice kindness (whether planned or random), both my soul and the recipient of my kindness are benefited.

I love the word “nourished.” It has the connotation of caring for something so that it becomes healthier and more beautiful. Wilted or brown edges are restored. Strength is revived. Flowers bloom and fruit grows.

In the context of this verse – that is, nourishing our soul, it also carries the connotation of bringing an inner peace and joy – a resting from toil and strife. Say it with me…Aaaaahhhhhh.

All that can be yours and mine through the simple act of kindness. Want some creative ideas? I’ve included a few below, but check out the Random Acts of Kindness website for more.

Lack of kindness is a spiritual issue. It is conceived when one sees the world through earthly eyes instead of the eyes of Christ. It takes root when we focus more on ourselves than others and is watered by impatience, jealousy and pride. Each of these things is called sin. Each keeps us from stepping outside ourselves to show kindness to others.

Yet that’s exactly what we need to do –remind ourselves that we are not the center of the universe, ask God to allow us to see others through His eyes, and commit to reaching out to others in kindness. It doesn’t take a lot of money, and it doesn’t even have to take a lot of time.

Show some kindness. Here are some ideas:

  • Smile – REALLY smile – at strangers.
  • Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk or cut their grass.
  • Cut flowers from your yard and give them to someone.
  • Buy two pizzas the next time you order and give one to a friend.
  • Pay for the Starbucks of the person behind you in line.
  • Invite the child of a friend to help you create a scrapbook for another friend.
  • Leave a generous tip the next time you eat out.
  • Pick up a candy bar for your coworker the next time you hit the vending machines.
  • Pick up trash from your neighbor’s yard.
  • Play with your neighbor’s children for an afternoon.
  • Call someone who needs to hear from you.

God has lots of ideas – ask Him! He’ll bring them to your mind.

My mom (Happy Birthday, Mom!) lives in a heathcare facility and has been for more than a decade. Yet she finds ways to be kind to other residents every day. Often they can’t reciprocate and sometimes they can’t even show any appreciation. But mom knows that when you give kindness away, your own soul is nourished. She laughs every day in the midst of very difficult living circumstances. I know that her laughter comes from a well-nourished soul.

What fools we often are! We hurry through life and worry about so many things, when slowing down just a bit would enable us to see the needs of others, respond in kindness and receive nourishment for our own souls in the process.

The New King James Version translates our key verse with a slightly different slant:

The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
Proverbs 11:18 (NKJV)

Kindness and mercy go hand in hand – showing mercy is showing kindness. Both require seeing someone’s need and moving to meet it. God has shown all of us tremendous mercy. He’s forgiven our sins – all of them.

Lord, help us to respond to others as you have responded to us. Help us to show mercy – kindness – to those around us.

Let’s nourish our own souls – let’s perform random acts of kindness – not just this week, let’s make it a lifestyle! Feel free to share your ideas for random acts of kindness as a comment or on Facebook.

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2Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3Cry out for insight and understanding. 4Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. 
Proverbs 2:2-4 (NLT)

That which we tune our ears to is what we begin to hear. Mothers tune their ears to the cries of their children. Doctors tune their ears to hear abnormal sounds in our lungs and abdomen. I could listen through their stethoscopes and every sound would seem either normal or abnormal – but I wouldn’t be able to distinguish one from another. In a room of crying babies I would not be able to distinguish one specific voice.

Similarly, with all the sounds that assault my hearing, unless I tune my ear to God’s wisdom I will not hear it. And I want to hear it. Proverbs 2 continues with some of the benefits of hearing God’s voice:

5Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. 8He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him.

9Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will know how to find the right course of action every time. 10For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. 11Wise planning will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.
Proverbs 2:5-11 (NLT)

What tremendous benefits await those who tune their ear to wisdom! They are benefits that are clearly worth the effort. The question is how does one tune their ear to something that we’ve never heard before? What is the “sound” of wisdom? How do we find it and how do we recognize it?

God is so good! He doesn’t tell us to do something without providing a way to do it. Our key verse provides God’s approach. Let’s break it down:

Verse 2a: Tune your ears to wisdom – I see two elements to this simple statement.First, is the imperative to take action. The verb isn’t passive, it is active. So let’s start by recognizing that it’s something we need to do and making a decision to do it! Too often we pursue education for our profession or vocation, but assume that we either have wisdom or don’t. That’s not consistent with Scripture. Scripture says clearly that we can gain wisdom, just as we might gain a college education. We don’t get a college degree without applying ourselves to our studies, and wisdom isn’t something that we gain by osmosis. Just as we can glean some knowledge by hanging around others who have invested in it, we can glean some wisdom by those who have already tuned their ear to it. But do you want just the little bit of God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding that you’ll gain from befriending a wise person, or do you want the whole gamut of wisdom God has for you? Do you want just a little of the good sense He has for you or all of it? Do you want just a little of His joy or all of it? I want it all (and I suspect you do, too).

The second element in this sentence is the kind of action we’re to take: Listen! You can’t tune your ear without listening closely. Each Sunday morning as our worship team tunes up, they strum their guitars, turn a knob or two, strum them again, turn the knobs again, and repeat this process until the strumming yields the sound they’re listening for. Quite frankly I don’t hear much difference between the first strumming and the last strumming. The musicians have tuned their ears – they’ve listened to their instruments over a period of time and know what it should sound like. We must listen closely, over a period of time, to learn the voice of the Lord. As we tune our ear to hear the Lord, sometimes we’ll get it wrong. That’s OK. God will correct us, and He loves that we are getting to know him.

Verse 2b: Concentrate on understanding – It’s not a lackadaisical approach that will tune your ear and give you understanding, it is the concentrated approach. Have you ever watched someone when they’re learning something new? Think of the child learning to tie his shoe. Or perhaps you’ve watched a great basketball player in slow motion as he concentrates on the basket as he sets up his shot. In both examples, you can see the concentration on the person’s face. They are focused on the task at hand, shutting out all outside influences that might ruin their concentration. God tells us to approach understanding like that – concentrate on it! Don’t just try it once, but concentrate on hearing God and understanding His ways. Block out the influences of this world and seek His wisdom.

Verse 3: Cry out for insight and understanding – Don’t go it alone! Cry out to God for insight and understanding. Ask God for it! He promises to give it:

If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.
James 1:5 (NLT)

Notice the word “gladly.” He doesn’t give it begrudgingly. But you must cry out for it!

Verse 4: Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure – Search high and low for it, as you would for money that you’ve lost or hidden treasure. Don’t give up easily! I lost my passport once. I emptied drawers and filing cabinets. I looked under furniture. I even cleaned off my desk – and I’m not a clean desk person. What have you searched for lately? Think about your search, then think about applying those same methods and intensity in finding wisdom, understanding and insight.

As I’ve been reading through Proverbs, God has been reminding me that I don’t seek His wisdom often enough. When I do the results are tremendous. Just today Phil was trying to do something on our website that he couldn’t figure out. He had spent quite a bit of time researching and trying various things, all to no avail. Then he started thinking about how God gave Joseph wisdom for succeeding in every position he held. So Phil paused to pray. He went back to working on the website, did a few things that made no sense to him and within minutes he had accomplished what he’d been trying to do for days! God’s wisdom is so good. We’ve had experiences like this in the past. Seeking God’s wisdom brings success. It was the topic of my last blog, and God is impressing it upon me enough for it to be the topic of this blog.

Let’s ask God for His wisdom before we waste time trying to live in our own wisdom (or lack thereof). He’s so good, He’ll give it generously! We have His promise.

 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

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