Thursday, November 21, 2013

Proverbs 30:5-6 The Truth, the whole Truth, & nothing but...

Last time we were looking at verses in this chapter of Proverbs which spoke to the authority of Jesus. Today’s verses are about the truth of God’s Word.

Every word of God proves true;

    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 
Do not add to his words,

    lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

God is not a liar. What He says He does. His Word is absolutely true. The problem with people wanting to pick and choose what they want to believe in the Bible, is that it puts us in the position of judging which parts are true. The reality is, as Jon Courson points out, that God’s Word judges us, not the other way around.

The Bible itself claims to be the Word of God, wholly inspired. Even though there were over 40 different writers from every walk of life (shepherd, kings, farmers, fishermen, tax-collector, tent-maker, doctor, priests, prophets, etc.) who wrote the 66 books over a period of 1,500 years, it is amazingly consistent with the same focus throughout: redemption of sinful man through Jesus, the Messiah, Savior. See what Paul, Isaiah, and Jesus had to say about God’s Word:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

    and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

    it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."  (Isaiah 55:10-11)

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

On one of my visits to Washington, D.C., I saw Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Bible that is in the Smithsonian American History Museum. It is called the Jeffersonian Bible, and it is full of holes, where Jefferson literally cut out any parts with which he disagreed. Jefferson was a deist, which is basically someone who believes that there is a higher power who started the world, but who is not interested in the day-to-day affairs of men, and who certainly does not desire a personal relationship with men.

How convenient to take out portions of the Bible that don’t fit our preconceived ideas or any thoughts that rankle or aren’t PC. Jesus promised that we would know the truth and that it would set us free (John 8:31-32). He said the truth, not a truth. There is one truth, and we can know it. It’s called the Bible.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Proverbs 30:1-4 Believe!

We are back from Salt Lake City! What a blessed experience meeting my latest granddaughter and seeing the Blakely family now grown to five! I’m amazed at how Beau and Penelope have welcomed their new little sister with such love and gentleness! The trip home in the minivan with all six of us was such a treat as we took an adventure through Zion National Park in all its glory! Now, it’s back to school for Nanny! And back to our study of the Proverbs.

In this chapter of Proverbs we find a collection of sayings which are the words of a man called Agur. According to Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary, Old Testament, Vol. 2 (P. 268), the name Agur means gatherer. These, then, are the sayings that he gathered. He starts his proverbs with questions about God:

The man declares, I am weary, O God;

    I am weary, O God, and worn out.  
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.

    I have not the understanding of a man. 
I have not learned wisdom,

    nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. 
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

    Who has gathered the wind in his fists?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?

    Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is his name, and what is his son's name?

    Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:1-4) 

Courson points out that Job uttered similar questions in Job 38. These are the big questions of man as he searches for his place in the universe. These are the questions of seekers. Who has ascended to heaven and come down? . . . What is his son’s name?

Jesus answered these very questions when confronted by another seeker, Nicodemus. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he “must be born again,” Nicodemus was puzzled: “How can these things be?” Jesus challenged Nicodemus with this response:

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:11-13)

Jesus is the only one who can speak with authority about heavenly things, because He is the only one who has come down from Heaven to reveal the Father. So, when the seeker is desiring to know about the things of God, the ONLY place he will find answers is in Jesus. He alone is the way to the Father. People complain that Christians are too narrow-minded on this issue of salvation. They want to believe that there are several ways. But Jesus did not give us that option. He very clearly made the claim that we are stuck with:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Peter affirmed this in his first sermon:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

These are astounding claims! If they were not true, they would be the ravings of a lunatic or a colossal fraud. We don’t have the option of just calling Jesus a “good teacher” when He made such claims.

The person who is seeking to know God, must come through His only Son. Period. Jesus came to be “God with us,” to show us the Father’s heart. And this very familiar section of John’s gospel reveals that heart:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18)

We are all way too familiar with John 3:16, but do we know verse 18? God desires to have a relationship with us, and that relationship is through His Son. We just need to believe (trust and cling to) it and receive it. Have you believed yet?  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Welcome, Baby Georgia Anne!

We welcomed a fifth grandchild into the family this weekend! Baby Georgia Anne Blakely was born on Thursday, November 7, and all of the Blakelys and Aunt Molly rushed to Salt Lake City to meet her! Saturday was a day filled with tension,as the birth mom waivered. But in the end,she chose to sign the papers, and Georgia left the hospital Saturday night with her new family. She is a beauty, and we are all in love!

Here she is, meeting Mommy for the first time:

Here she is with Daddy and big sister, Penelope:

And here is big brother, Beau, with his two sisters:

Penelope loving on Georgia:

And another shot of Emmy with this sweet baby:

I am flying to Salt Lake to join them on Thursday and will accompany them on the drive back home to Southern California. Can’t wait! Thank you, LORD, for this precious baby, and for the birth mom who gave the most precious and sacrificial gift she could. Bless that mom’s life abundantly, Father! Comfort and assure her that she has made the right decision for this little girl!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Proverbs 29:11,15,20, and 22 No excuses!

During 22 years of parent conferences it seems like I’ve had countless opportunities to commiserate with parents of strong-willed children! Often these conversations are accompanied with tears of frustration from parents who have no idea what to do. I’m so grateful that God gave me a strong-willed child, so that I can relate!

From the time Emmy was a toddler, I spent countless hours on my knees in tears! Dr. Dobson’s book, The Strong-willed Child, became my constant companion! Emmy and I prayed nightly that God would help her with self-control. She didn’t know exactly what it was, but she knew it had to do with her tantrums, she knew needed it, and she knew that the LORD could provide it.

One of the important lessons for Emmy (and for me) through those years was that it is NOT okay to use the excuse, “Well, I was just born with a bad temper - that’s who I am.” She knew from watching several other family members suffer with the consequences of a bad temper, that she needed supernatural intervention over her natural tendencies.

Several verses in this 29th chapter of Proverbs deal with the need for self-control.

A fool gives full vent to his spirit,

    but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11)

The rod and reproof give wisdom,

    but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (v.15)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

    There is more hope for a fool than for him. (vs. 20)

A man of wrath stirs up strife,

    and one given to anger causes much transgression. (vs. 22)

I am certain there is a genetic factor involved with temperaments! Just like there is with every other aspect of our personalities and physical bodies. In fact, I’m pretty sure it all goes right back to our progenitors, Adam and Eve! And certainly God knows this about us. Yet, He never gives us an out with sin. He just calls it sin, and Jesus died for ALL of it. The Bible assures us that that sin nature has been dealt with:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We have the same power to live out this new life in us that raised Jesus from the dead! In chapters 6-8 of Romans, Paul writes about this struggle between our flesh (old man) and our spirit (new man). 

Romans 6:14 tells us, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” 

And later he writes, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

Notice he refers to where we SET our minds. We need to take any area of our lives that lacks self-control to the LORD in pray with repentance and humility, asking for help, but we also need to purposefully set out minds on transformation by reading and meditating on His Word. It changes us from the inside out.

One thing I’ve noticed about strong-willed people. While a strong will can be a weakness (stubbornness), it can also be a strength (firm commitment to values). The strong-willed child is much less likely to be swayed by peer pressure. I love my strong-willed daughter to pieces. But I especially love that she is daily turning that will over to God.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Proverbs 28:26 Lord, what do you want me to do?

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,

    but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)

Doesn’t this verse remind you of teenagers??? I always thought the word sophomore was a perfect description for teens in their second year of high school, because they are just cocky enough to believe they know everything. When Emmy was in high school she bought a refrigerator magnet for her dad for Christmas that said “Better ask your teenager while they still know everything.” Of course!  We wrapped it up and gave it back to he when she turned 20!

When I read this verse to Molly, she said it sounded like politicians. But I think politicians don’t rely on their own minds - they rely on pollsters to determine the mind of the public. Majority determines which way the politician leans! Hmm... the minds of several fools?

But this verse from Proverbs tells us that those who are truly wise understands how much they need the wisdom of God and the counsel of His Word. I like that this verse does NOT say “Whoever uses his own mind is a fool.” God has given us brains with which to think. He’s given us senses to use in making daily decisions. We look at situations, we listen to arguments, we have feelings that we weigh when considering choices we make. God is the Creator of logic and reason, and He has given us the capacity to also use these in order to function well. So, we make our list of pros and cons when confronted with a major decision.

However, this verse tells us that we can’t trust our minds alone. We need to walk in wisdom. We need to garner as much wisdom as we can from God’s Word. The whole counsel of His Word. Does what we are choosing to do fit with the character of God? Is it loving? forgiving? compassionate? self-sacrificing? Will it glorify God? Or will someone be hurt by it?

Many of our decisions are not Kingdom kinds of choices [for instance, choices that would impact our witness or where we or someone else will spend eternity]. We may be struggling over which job to take or whether or not to move. Sometimes we get paralyzed in decision-making over these issues, because we want to know what God’s exact will is. If you are wrestling with just these kinds of things, trust God to make His way for you clear. If your ultimate goal is to do His will and to glorify Him, He knows that. He’s is not going to allow you to fall of a cliff - unless He designed that cliff with your name on it to help transform you. :)

Steep yourself in His Word, so that you will be open to receiving direction from God. Pray about your decision and discuss it with godly mentors, who might be able to give you some specific direction from God’s Word. Then trust God to open or close doors as needed.

When I was deciding whether or not to go back to school to become a teacher, I really felt God calling me, but I wanted it confirmed - in 100 ways, apparently, because, looking back, He had made it crystal clear. But what I was looking for was a specific scripture that would let me know without a doubt! I could have waited and waited for that scripture and delayed taking any action, but I knew that God wanted the best for me, and He would not let me do something disastrous. If I moved ahead, and it wasn’t His will, He would close doors or at least redeem my wrong choice somehow (Romans 8:28). 

So, I prayed, “LORD, I’m going to go up to Fullerton tomorrow and register for classes. If you do not want me to do that, You are going to need to make that very clear. Unless I see a sign that says, ‘Sally White, of Laguna Niguel [in case there was another Sally White], go home,’ I am signing up, because I believe this is what you want for me.” I think sometimes God just wants us to step out in faith and trust Him to undergird us.

Finally, I received the exact verse I needed - even though it seems like a random verse. I was studying the book of Matthew, and had come to chapter 14:22-33, in which Jesus walks on water toward the disciples in the boat. As I read verses 28-29, I immediately felt the confirmation I was seeking:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Like Peter, I had been wondering if it truly was the LORD calling me. And these simple verses just popped out and assured me that God was calling me to come - to jump out of the boat and walk - keeping my eyes on Him! It seems like such a silly verse, but it was exactly what I needed for confirmation. God is so gracious to give us an assist to our weak faith! Trust Him to do that for you!