Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011 … Knowing God’s Will – Now, That’ Wisdom!

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 17 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

My Journal for Today: Well, here we are on this last day of November, closing out our discussion of the pursuit of Godly wisdom; and for the final time in our series, we return to the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to walk carefully in this evil world (Eph. 5: 15 – 16); and we’ve seen that he made this charge to help believers walk in a way that is worthy of our calling in Christ (see Eph. 4: 1). But today we focus on Paul’s tag line in verse Eph. 5: 17, which he added after verses 15 – 16; and that is the exhortation to avoid foolishness by understanding the will of God for our lives.

That’s actually a pretty heavy challenge. If I’m to be a wise Christian in this evil world, Paul is saying that I have to know and understand God’s will for my life. But, how do I do that? And in this pursuit of God’s will, John MacArthur give us six signpost areas, which are biblically supported to help us know God’s will for our lives.

From God’s word and prompted by John MacArthur's study, which is documented in today's entry from Strength for Today, we know that it is God’s will that any Christian must …

>>> #1 … Be SAVED (1st Timothy 2: 3 – 4 and 2nd Peter 3: 9)
>>> #2 … Be SPIRIT FILLED (Ephesians 5: 17 – 18 – see above)
>>> #3 … Be SANCTIFIED (1st Thessalonians 4: 3 – 8)
>>> #4 … Be SUBMISSIVE (1st Peter 2: 13 – 15)
>>> #5 … Be SUFFERING FOR CHRIST (1st Peter 3: 17)
>>> #6 … Be SAYING THANKS (1st Thessalonians 5: 18)

According to MacArthur and God’s truth (I hope you’ve looked up those scriptures), if a Christian is all of these or recognizes his life in the context of these elements of the Christian experience, he is bound to be living a life which is in pursuit of, and quite possibly even fulfills, God’s will. He would also be in complete fulfillment of God’s command, through the Psalmist, to “… delight [ourselves] in the Lord,” (see Psalm 37: 4) which results in God’s wonderful promise to fulfill the heart of such a believer.

This biblical and God-promised formula goes like this … the quest to know God yields >>> the loving desire to be obedient to God’s will, the pursuit of which results in >>> the inner drive to obey and serve God to the utmost, surrendered to God’s Spirit, >>> the fulfillment of which yields the abundant blessing of fruitfulness from God’s grace [i.e., the fruit if the Spirit – see Gal. 5: 22, 23]. If you’ve read my teaching or exhortations enough, you may remember me quoting the chain of Christian discipleship, which goes … to know God is to love Him >>> to love Him is to obey Him >>> to obey Him is to serve Him >>> to serve Him is be blessed by Him. And so, does not this make pursuing the mind of God (i.e., knowing God and His will) the foremost goal for all Christians? I believe it does.

That’s what I’ve gotten from this month’s quest for Godly wisdom … that I am driven, by God’s prevenient and enabling grace, to know my Savior, to dig deeply into the treasure mines of God’s word (see Job 28), to find His will for my life (again primarily from His word), and to live out God’s way (i.e, always following Christ as He commanded in Luke 9: 23) in such a way that I can shine His light into this darkened world, glorifying my Father in Heaven (see Matt. 5: 16, which I would certainly hope you have memorized by now).

Is knowing God and His will for your life your primary goal in life? Is your life directed in such a way as to move in the direction we’ve discussed this month? If not, perhaps it would be productive to ask yourself, “Why not?!” And then maybe you could move to respond to God’s challenge from Paul in Ephesians 3: 13, resulting in a quest to know and understand the mind of God no matter what the challenges of life present. If you do, God’s promise and power awaits you [see Acts 1: 8]; and you will become a more powerful witness for our Lord in this world. That is certainly my desire and plan. I hope you join me.

My Prayer Today: I want to know you more today, Lord … and then even more tomorrow! Amen

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011 … Again – Living Unselfishly

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 16 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: Yes, we return to Ephesians 5: 16 one more time! And I’ve learned that any time an accomplished and gifted teacher like John MacArthur repeats a biblical exposition like this, as he does in today’s Strength for Today devotional, one should take notice. And so, I hope you, who read this, will join me in paying close attention to this entry.

According to MacArthur, the use of our time as Christians measures our willingness to live for self or for others. So, MacArthur returns to a focus on the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in today’s verse, indicating that believers should be “… making the most of our time.” (from the NASB translation). If I were to paraphrase this portion of today’s verse, I’d say it this way: “making Christlike choices as we live our lives.” Such choices, in my humble estimation, reflect the degree to which we are living as wise Christians in answer to the question James asked on DAY ONE this month (from James 3: 13), “Who is wise and understanding among you (Christians)?”

Jesus, when He was teaching about how we invest the providence of our financial gain, said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Matt. 6: 21] Christ wants us to be willing to give our all for Him, … not just our treasures, but also our time. However, through His grace, He only demands the first portion of our God-given providence (see Prov. 3: 9 – 10, Matt. 6: 33, and 2nd Cor. 9: 6 – 7). And our investment of time falls under these edicts of truth as well as would our treasure or our talents.

So, what are we doing with our time? When we have daily or long-range planning choices to make involving our time, do we think of God first? This morning when our feet hit the floor, did we choose to invest the FIRST portion of our day with God; or did we invest that time thinking of selfish concerns or other worldly, frivolous matters?

Let’s reflect for a moment. Allow me to ask myself (and you) these questions concerning the time investment choices in our lives …

>>> What did we do yesterday for our Lord or His Kingdom?
>>> What do I plan to do on this very day which will definitely glorify my Father in Heaven?
>>> What goals and plans do I have for tomorrow and beyond that reflect my love of God?

And a few more questions … How do the answers to those questions above help me measure my Godly wisdom? Am I wise enough to realize that I’m spending my time to get to know the mind of God and His will for my life? Am I accounting for my time in a way that reflects my understanding of God’s word and His plan for my life? How am I using my time to understand and internalize God’s word? Am I spending my time using the spiritual gift or gifts God has given me to reap eternal rewards in Heaven from the investment of the time God has given me in this life? As it directs in Matt. 6: 33, am I really seeking to invest my time first for God and His righteous, or do I consider my own fleshly choices first as I plan my life?

These are hard questions which demand straight AND honest answers; because the answers will lead us to do what the Apostle Paul has exhorted in Ephesians 5: 16 … to make the most of every opportunity to serve our God.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord … convict me … direct me … to live for You … FIRST! … Yes, Lord, as Fernando Ortega sings at this link, “You can have all this world, … just give me Jesus!”

Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011 … Sensing the Urgency

Passage of the Day: Revelations 2: 4 – 5 … 4 Yet I hold this against you [i.e., the Church @ Ephesus]: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

My Journal for Today: Why don’t we (the Church in the USA) see it? The last few days we have read [in Ephesians 5: 15 – 16] how the Apostle Paul tried to wake up the Church in Ephesus about the evil influences of the world; and then, God, through John’s Revelation in today’s passage, warned the same Ephesian Church, about 30+ years after Paul, to return to their first love. God perceived that the Church in Ephesus had waned in their love of Christ [see also John’s warning in 1st John 2: 15 – 16]. But history tells us that the church at Ephesus did not heed God’s warning; and God, the Holy Spirit, apparently removed the lamp stand from that church which God had planted there in Ephesus, … the church about which Paul instructed Timothy (in 1st and 2nd Timothy) as to leadership. Sadly there has not been a viable Christian church in Ephesus for some 20 centuries now; and we in the U.S. should learn from those warnings and wake up to sense the urgency of what is happening in our midst today.

I totally agree with John MacArthur in his devotional for this date (from Strength for Today) that it may take a nationwide or worldwide persecution of Christ’s Church for the spark of revival to be lit for what appears (at least to this observer) to be a church [in America] who is slowly succumbing to the evils of the world. Actually we see these revival fires burning in China, in South America, and in Africa today where Christianity is outlawed or under great oppression and where the first love of the church in these areas – i.e., their love of Christ – burns ever so brightly and is growing in intensity.

We need to take heed of Paul’s warning to Timothy and again to the Ephesians (see 2nd Tim. 3: 13 - 14) where he wrote, “… while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.” That church (i.e., at Ephesus) did not ultimately heed Paul’s warning through Timothy; and God lifted their lamp stand, their church dwindling into oblivion.

Therefore, if it takes evil growing in our midst to awaken us to God’s prescription for revival in 2nd Chronicles 7: 14, … well, bring it on; but … Lord have mercy on us!

My Prayer Today:
Whatever it takes, Lord; wake up Your Church here in America! Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 2011 … Living In Evil Days

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 16 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: In his devotional entry from Strength for Today on this date, John MacArthur returns to Ephesians 5: 16; and I believe he does so for emphasis to warn Christians, as we search to live lives wrapped in Godly wisdom, about our need for vigilance in this evil, sin-ridden world in which we live. However, though this is our living reality, this world, so wrapped in darkness, presents an ever present opportunity for the Christian to shine brightly in contrast to the darkness (see Matt. 5: 16), … to live a life worthy of our calling in Christ (see Eph. 4: 1-2), … and to do good for fellow believers and for the lost (see Gal. 6: 9 – 10), especially as we aspire to live as Christ lived (see Luke 4: 18), reaching out to make disciples of those He saves from the grips of Satan and the world (see Matt. 28: 19 – 20).

Now, if that doesn’t give Christians a purpose in life, what more could?

Certainly God must grieve at what man has made of His wondrous creation with Satan’s powerful assistance. However, we followers of God, the Son, … the Christ, … have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to put a smile on God’s face as we live circumspectly in Christ by simply following Him (see Eph. 5: 15 in the NKJV) as He commanded us (see Luke 9: 23), and prayerfully leading others to Him with our witness and our walk (see Acts 1: 8).

You know, I really do hope that others read this and get as fired up as I am [especially on this day in this year, which turns out to be during Thanksgiving week] about what we can do for our God in the face of all the evil surrounding us. And we can! We’re not given the responsibility to be in control or to change it all. That’s God’s gig! No, all we need to do is do what Christ modeled or commanded and live our lives worthy of Him, following in His footsteps. And the irony is, when we do that, we do change the world – and we do so for His glory.

My Prayer Today: In Your Name, Lord, I go forth! Amen

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 26, 2011 … Seizing Opportunities

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 15 - 16 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: I don’t know about any of you who might be reading these blogs along with me this month, but this exhortation from the Apostle Paul to believers, being inspired by God, the Holy Spirit, is deeply convicting to me. As I’ve said this past month as we’ve dealt with the pursuit of Godly wisdom, I have to ask myself often if I’m “making the most of every opportunity” to live, as Eph. 4: 1 says, “… a life worthy of the calling you [i.e., “I”] have received …” as a Christian.

In the Book of Psalms, Moses is quoted as writing (in PS. 90: 12), “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” And therein lies the emphasis I believe the Apostle Paul was trying to capture in today’s verse. The phrase “to number” [bold above] is the Hebrew term, “manah,” which literally means “to account for.” And so Moses was saying that believers must make an accounting to God for the days God gives us to live for Him.

In our passage for today, the phrase “… making the most of every opportunity in the NIV is translated “making the most of your time” in the NASB. That term “time” in the Greek is the term “kairos,” not the normal term for time, which would be “chronos.” The latter is the term for sequential time as we’d measure it with a clock. “Kairos,” however, means a designated period of time or “an era,” … for example, the time we are given on this earth. So, the Apostle Paul is saying that the span of time given to us by God needs to be maximized for God’s glory; and we must do this in the context of the evil days in which we live. Therefore, according to God’s word, from what we’ve studied here, Christians are charged to prudently pursue the wisdom, will, and ways of God, even as we’re bombarded by evil all around us, so that we can “carpe diem,” i.e., seize the day, for God’s glory.

How are we doing?

I ask myself from today’s time with God here this very morning, “How am I going to live this very day to know God more and to shine His light in this very evil world in which we live?” It’s a daunting task; but for the Lord Who saved me, it is a task which I must pursue with all the motivation I can muster. Besides, as 1st Cor. 10: 13 assures me, God will not allow me to be involved with any trial, task, or temptation which I cannot handle with Him faithfully by my side (also Heb. 13: 5 or Deut. 31: 6). God will never abandon me; so, I must never abandon Him.

My Prayer Today: Lord, may my time today and all my tomorrows by for You. Amen

Blogger’s Note: I hope the reader does not assume, with me quoting and discussing Hebrew and Greek terms in my blogs, that I have first hand knowledge of Hebrew and/or Greek from my references to word studies from these languages. … Hardly! … However, often I find it helpful to use an online Hebrew/Greek dictionary or reference to study the meanings of certain words or phrases. As the study in this devotional entry, it can give a closer look at the meanings intended by God from His word. And that study is well worth the investment of my time (or “chronos” as the Greeks would say it!). ;)

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 25, 2011 … Finishing the Race

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 15 - 16 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] …
15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: Returning to Ephesians 5: 15 – 16 this morning, this month my devotional time with God, with John MacArthur as my biblical shepherd in Strength for Today, has focused on finding the mind of God (i.e., searching for Godly wisdom) and then applying that wisdom to my life in these perilous times in which we live as Christians. In Acts 20: 24, Paul is attributed by Luke to have written to Christians, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.” Note that Paul saw himself and other Christians to have a finite, God-led, course in life, and in the time he was given, Paul felt that his Christian witness to Christ’s gospel was of utmost importance. And that is why Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5: 15-16 becomes so pertinent to us today … yes, even critical.

We live in a most challenging era of history; but 1st Century Christians felt that way as well. In all eras of time, human lives in this fallen world have been tinged by evil and social upheaval. So, in these perilous times in which God has allowed us to live, we must do all we can to find God’s will and make the most of our time, giving witness to the next life with Christ. And as we’ve come to understand this month, one of the keys to living a productive and fruitful Christian life is to know God’s will and way through His word.

If we are to follow Christ’s command [in Matt. 5: 16] and shine His light in the world with Godly living for all to see our Father in Heaven, we must be able to say, at the end of our allotted time on this earth, that we have crowns of righteousness waiting for us in Heaven. So I have to ask myself, “Can I say the following, as Paul did to Timothy?” [see 2nd Tim. 4: 7 – 8] … “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

And I have found that it is WISE for me to do a periodic inventory of my values; and then to analyze seriously how I’m using my time to fulfill what God has for my life which will shine His light and glorify God. In other words, are we all walking the worthy walk for Christ (see Eph. 4: 1 – 3)?

That is our challenge … today, tomorrow, and always.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to be all I can be for You. Amen

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24, 2011 … Purposeful Discipline

Passage of the Day: 1st Timothy 4: 8 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

My Journal for Today:
Still focusing on how we can pursue Godly wisdom, applying an abiding understanding to God’s word, we come upon Paul’s very practical instruction to Timothy – and thereby to all believers – about the dangers involved in doing “good” at the expense of doing God’s “best.” It is one of Satan’s cleverest ploys to get non-believers so wrapped up in physical, social, and/or spiritual disciplines that are not bad, but they take that person’s focus completely away from the One, True God and His will for our lives. And similarly, many Christians fall prey to this ploy as well by investing untold hours in “good” things/activities, ignoring the Spirit-led disciplines of the faith which could bring them God’s “best” things in life.

That’s where Paul was going in his exhortation to Timothy, the younger man who was becoming the Pastor of the Church at Ephesus. Think about it. How many Christians have we seen get wrapped up in rigorous physical exercise programs and/or hobbies, not finding the time to participate with equal commitment in disciplines such as fasting, prayer, solitude, silence, and/or Bible memory or study? How many Christian deer hunters are willing to get up at 4:00am every morning of deer season to go hunting; but they are unwilling to get up at 6:00am every morning [or earlier if necessary] for a devotional time before they’re off to work which could deepen their relationship with Christ? Deer hunting is not a bad thing (unless you’re a Bambi lover); but saying that “I just don’t have time for a quiet time in the morning” is a bad thing when we choose a discipline of deer hunting over a driving hunt for the mind of God.

The Apostle Paul’s instruction for Timothy should hit us all where we live. Are these God-inspired words leading us into a discipline that could help shape us for HIS purpose where He could bless us with more of HIS power to accomplish HIS plan? Could I give up one half of my morning jog to have more time in the morning with God in Bible study and/or prayer? Could I spend one half of my daily lunch time at work praying for a list of intercessory prayer partners? Could I prioritize more time to a ministry/mission project which uses my spiritual gifts more for God’s glory than the worldly projects which occupy a lot of my daily calendar?

What we choose to do is a reflection of our values [see Matt. 6: 21]. And I have to continually keep asking myself to re-evaluate my “to do” list based upon my biblically founded Christian values. Are the “main things” in my life the MAIN THINGS in God’s plan for my life? And I always seem to come back to questions evolving out of Luke 9: 23

>>> Am I denying my own fleshly desires and serving within God’s plan for my life [see also Matt. 6: 33]?
>>> Am I carrying the crosses that Christ would lay at my feet rather than stepping around them to carry out tasks which I, personally, find important [see also Prov. 3: 5 – 6]?
>>> Am I really following the path that God has lain out for my life; or am I choosing the expedient, self-indulgent path which is wider and more traveled by others [again Prov. 3: 5 – 6]?

When I respond honestly to what Paul was instructing Timothy in today’s verse, often I have to redo my event planning list to come into line with God’s plans rather than my own. And when I do that, I find that my Christian witness becomes more powerful and my life more meaningful – just as Paul desired for Timothy [please meditate on and memorize Acts 1: 8].

My Prayer Today: Build me, Lord, into a powerful witness to Your Name. Amen

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23, 2011 … Playing The Fool

Passage of the Day: 1st Samuel 26: 21 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 21 Then Saul said [to David], "I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly."

My Journal for Today:
Can anyone, besides yours truly, identify with Saul’s pathetic pronouncement in today’s highlight verse/passage? In context we see that King Saul was chasing around after David due to his jealousy and ambition; and in a moment of lucidity, he saw what a fool he had been. Now we also know from history and scripture that it was only a momentary admission; because Saul went back to his foolish ways, which ultimately became his undoing – as will any pattern of habitual sin in the life of a believer. We all have our besetting patterns of sins – well, at least I do. I used to have a sexual sin stronghold in my life; and now I still waver in weakness with regard to gluttony; … perhaps, even though you’re a Christian, you have struggles like these too. I have Christian friends who deal with weaknesses in compulsive shopping, or other who have trouble whipping their tobacco addiction, or yet others who compulsively overeat like I do at times.

John MacArthur in today’s devotional from Strength for Today explores God’s command to Israel – and to us – in Deut. 32: 6, where Moses chides God’s people, “Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people?” And is not that still the case in our world today? But how/why do we still perpetuate such misunderstanding and foolishness – even though we have God’s word in the light of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification? Well, MacArthur postulates several points in answering this …

First, it is our DISBELIEF. We’re not that much different than the two Christians walking to Emmaus after the crucifixion, whom Jesus confronted on the road and lovingly brought them to the realization of His presence in their lives (see Luke 24). We sometimes just walk through life engulfed in our circumstances; and because of our “pity-party” mentality, we can’t see Christ in the events of our lives; and we get down on life in our blind selfishness.

Secondly, our DISOBEDIENCE marks us as fools. Paul questioned the Galatians (in Gal. 3: 3). He wrote in that verse, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” So often, when we’re confronted by the issues/circumstances of life, we react in the flesh rather than respond in the Spirit; and when we do so, we are disobedient to God and deserving of the outcomes or our own foolishness. Maybe, in past devotionals, you’ve read me write, “We cannot fight the flesh in the flesh!”

Thirdly, as worldly fools we DESIRE the wrong things. This was documented by Paul to Timothy in 1st Tim. 6: 9 when he wrote, “People … fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Christ gave us clear instruction where our desires must reside [see Matt. 6: 33]; and that is with God and not the world (see also 1st John 2: 15 – 16).

Finally, we see our foolishness as Christians in the DEMEANOR of our living, as we read in James 3: 13 – 17 (which we studied earlier this month; so, I’ll leave that to your own study – see any of my journal entries for 11/10-16). Unfortunately too many Christians fall prey to selfish worldly pursuits of wisdom/understanding rather than pursuing the mind of God through His word. We need to respond to Paul’s exhortation in Rom. 16: 19 when he wrote, “…I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”

If we can recognize these tendencies of mankind – even Christians like ourselves – to fall into patterns of disbelief, disobedience, selfish desires, and misdemeanor, with our Spirit-surrendered choices, we could avoid the outcomes of living for and/or in the flesh (documented in Gal. 5: 19 – 21) and become much more wise Christians who live to express the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22, 23).

My Prayer Today: Lead me, Lord; and I will walk where you walk. Amen

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 2011 … Watch Your Step

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 15 [note terms in bold] – [NIV] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, …

Ephesians 5: 15 [note terms in bold] – [NASB] … 15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, …

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional on this date, returns to Ephesians 5: 15 to emphasize the exhortation to Christians to “walk carefully” in Christ. I’ve added the NASB version of today’s key verse above because it uses the translated term “walk,” which is another translation from the Greek, rather than “live,” as in the NIV. I like the term “walk” paired with “be very careful” because, as MacArthur alludes in his devotional, they can create the word picture of a soldier being so very careful as he clears a minefield.

I’ll return to this mental image; but focusing on the Greek, term “akribos,” which has been accurately rendered in the NIV for Eph. 5: 15, “to be very careful;” and it’s a term which means to be hyper-vigilant to what is going on around us in the world. The second key term in today’s verse is “paripateo” in the Greek; and it refers to our ”daily living or walk,” especially those habits or disciplines which comprise our habitual walk in the world. Using these terms together, Paul was saying to the Ephesians, and to us [paraphrased], “As you walk everyday in this world, walk with extreme care and vigilance!”

And that’s why the mine-clearing soldier image is so apropos in this exhortation. Wouldn’t you agree that life, as we know it, truly is a minefield? And I’ve often asked this question of other Christians, “If you had to walk through a minefield, would you rather be first; or would you rather follow someone who knows exactly where every mine is placed?” The answer is a no-brainer, of course. And applied to Eph. 5: 15, Paul is saying that the wise Christian will do all he can to seek the perfect minefield walker; and that, my dear readers, is Jesus; and then we follow Him.

Christ commanded His disciples (in Matt. 16: 24, Mark 8: 34; and one which I probably quote more than any other in ministry, Luke 9: 23) to follow Him ever so closely by denying ourselves. Proverbs 3: 5 commands the believer to trust God’s way completely and not try to walk in life using our own ideas; and Prov. 3: 6 promises that if we do that, God will lead us carefully down His pathway of life. And God’s pathway, even if it’s fraught with “mines,” is always the safest path to follow. Hence, our need to be vigilant and disciplined in following our Lord rather than our own feelings and flesh-driven ideas.

To the world, a “careful walk” might mean using our head knowledge, gleaned from worldly education, science, or even from man-made religion, to avoid the dangerous circumstances of life. It might encourage the worldly warrior to take on the minefield alone by using modern technology or to follow religious positive thinking gurus to point out the mines of life; but the truth of such strategies would place us at the mercy of others who are simply trying to show us the way by man-created technologies or thought processes. When we follow the way of Prov. 3: 5 – 6 and/or Luke 9: 23, merely trusting and following Christ, we may not always avoid the dangers of life’s minefields; but we’ll always know that God will bring us through the minefields of life the right way! And I don’t know about you; but I’d much rather follow Jesus through life than risk doing it on my own.

My Prayer Today: Lead me, Lord, and I will walk where You walk. Amen

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011 … Growing In Wisdom

Passage of the Day: 2nd Peter 3: 18 (highlight verse in bold/underlined) … 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

My Journal for Today: It is true … at the time of conversion for a Christian, with the indwelling of God’s Spirit, we are given, with the knowledge implant of God’s Spirit, all that we will need (from God’s enabling/enlightening grace) to allow us to grow into Christlikeness (see 2nd Peter 1: 3). However, in today’s passage/verse, Peter charges believers to grow beyond our initial conversion state of enablement as we grow to become more like Christ in all aspects of life.

And John MacArthur for this date in his Strength for Today devotionals indicates that growing in Christ is growing in Godly wisdom; and so, how could a consciencious Christian disagree with that? Therefore, in the development of our wisdom quotient, MacArthur points us toward four steps …

>>> 1. WORSHIP – Worship is the life expression of the “fear of God,” which we know from Scripture (Prov. 9: 10) is the beginning of all wisdom. Therefore, our 24/7 lifestyle of worship becomes the breakthrough surrender to God’s Spirit and the gateway avenue to the mind of God.

>>> 2. PRAYER – James 1: 5 clearly says that God will provide us with His wisdom in abundance IF we are willing to ask for it with the expectation of His fulfillment of that promise. And prayer, of course, is the vehicle for us to ask God for His way/will.

>>> 3. RECEIVE INSTRUCTION – There is Godly wisdom in the counsel or mentoring from others whom we know are more mature (i.e., wiser) in God’s ways than are we (see Prov. 8: 14 and 15: 22; as well as Col. 1: 28).

>>> 4. STUDY SCRIPTURE – 2nd Timothy 2: 15 clearly charges that we, as Christians, be approved before God as we accurately handle His word [i.e., “the word of truth”].

Therefore, as has been the case this month in my [our] search for Godly wisdom, it’s another check up time!

First, and AGAIN, we must ask ourselves, … just how serious are we to find God’s mind? And if we are serious, what are we doing about it (as outlined by this very practical list above)? As you can see above, God’s word supports every one of the above listed steps to seek out Godly wisdom; but those who find it difficult to break the inertia of embarking on this quest for Godly understanding usually find themselves giving excuses that allow them to stay in the pattern of self-driven patterns or worldly access to understanding.

Often I hear things like, …

“I’m no Bible scholar and never will be.”

“I just don’t have time to … [you fill in the blank]!”

“The Bible is so difficult to understand.”

“I’m pretty wise in the ways of the world.”

“I can handle it (the tasks of life) on my own.”

Well, all I can say is … if these or any other excuses are keeping any of us from growing in our understanding of God’s word, I’m afraid Satan has us totally conned and believing all that he would feed us to keep us away from knowing God more intimately. And to any of us who are in that position, I feel for what will result from our self-empowered ignorance or denial of God. As long as Satan (and our own hearts) having us buying into lies like these above, we’re always going to be vulnerable to our enemy; and we’re also going to be diluted of God’s power and His wisdom to become more like Him and to serve Him with power. Sad … sad … sad !!!

My Prayer Today: Fill me daily, God, with Your mind. … Amen

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 20, 2011 … Acting Responsibly

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 15 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur makes a rather startling claim as he once again discusses Ephesians 5: 15 in today’s Strength for Today devotional. He maintains, supported by such Scripture as 1st Cor. 1: 3, and Col. 2: 3, as well as today’s passage, taken from Eph. 5: 1 – 16, that even the new, born-again believer has been endowed with enough wisdom to be able to fulfill the mandate of today’s verse/passage.

Ephesians 5: 1 – 14 [linked here for your meditation], which precedes today’s verse, [please read it!] is Paul’s forceful teaching that we must, as Christians, be imitators of God (i.e., Christ); and one verse in this passage is a linchpin verse for Battle Plan Ministry, the ministry into which God led me to found and lead over 10 years ago. It is Eph. 5: 3; and it states: “But among you [i.e., Christians] there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.”

That is a high standard for any Christian to uphold, let alone one who has become habitually, or maybe even addictively, wracked by habitual sexual sin. However, it is the mirror of truth because God is Holy; and we must aspire to be Holy, as He is Holy, … 24/7. Paul had no less that five separate exhortations in his New Testament epistles where he charged his fellow Christians to be Holy because of God’s holiness (see Rom. 12: 1, Eph. 1: 4, Col. 1: 22, 1st Thes. 4: 4, and 2nd Tim. 1: 9). And if that is not enough from God’s Spirit as the Author of Scripture, Paul was joined by Peter who quoted God from the Old Testament, Who commands His children to be Holy as He is Holy (see Lev. 11: 44, 19: 2, and 20: 7). REMEMBER, God never calls one of His own to do something that He, through His Spirit, will not enable that one to do (see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Peter 1: 3-4).

So, though we have been given free-will, if we are truly IN CHRIST, we are driven by God’s Spirit to make choices that pursue and aspire to absolute holiness. Christ commanded us to shine His light through our lives into the darkness of a sin-engulfed world so that others can see God, the Father, being lived out in our lives (see Matt. 5: 16); and that can only happen when we live in holiness, reflecting the Holy light of Christ.

And yes, I agree with Peter’s contention that all Christians, are endowed by God’s Spirit with all they need to live holy and blameless in God’s sight (again, see 2nd Pet. 1: 3 – 4). Theologically and spiritually that’s our positional righteousness in Christ. However, reality and experience has shown me that new or immature believers are more susceptible in their posture to the foolishness and schemes of the devil and his system in the world. They are more vulnerable in their own deceit-ridden hearts as well (by now you should know Jer. 17: 9), especially if that heart has been saturated for much of the life of that new believer by habitual sin.

But even a babe in Christ is more capable of resisting sinful living and making Christlike choices than any non-believer. And over time, if that immature believer intentionally chooses to follow God’s word, seeking His will and His way, he will become a stronger, wiser, more Christlike believer, shining Christ’s light more often and with more intensity into the darkness and glorifying his Father in Heaven as he does so.

So, we must continually ask ourselves if we are forever pursuing God’s mind, especially in the face of an increasingly confusing and foolish world which presses us on all sides to take our minds off of God’s will and His way. We must look at our choices and determine if they are choices to follow self or the Savior. And if those choices are more and more the latter, we are growing in Christlikeness and shining an ever brighter light into this world.

My Prayer Today: Fill me, God, daily with Your mind. Amen

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 19, 2011 … Being Different from the World

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 5: 15a [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

My Journal for Today: In today’s highlight verse, the Apostle Paul cautions believers to be careful in our Christian walk and to be wise; and he likely makes this observation in the context of a previous exhortation to Christians in Ephesians 4: 1, where he wrote that Christians must “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received, …” which, of course, is that of being a “Christian.”

And John MacArthur helps me (us) see, in today’s Strength for Today devotional, that a “worthy” life or walk in Christ is one of humility (Ephesians 4: 1 – 3), unity with other believers (Eph. 4: 4 – 16), uniqueness and separation from the world (Eph. 4: 17 – 32), and one exhibiting Christ’s love (Eph. 5: 1 – 7) from the illumination of God’s Spirit (Eph. 5: 8 – 14); and all of this is living a life of Godly wisdom (see above in Eph. 5: 15 – 17), avoiding the foolishness of the world. And MacArthur is right when he says that such a walk is severely impeded, if not impossible, when Christians make worldly or self-centered choices, seeking to use the tools of worldly wisdom or relying on the wisdom generated from our own deceit-ridden hearts (see Jer. 17: 9). MacArthur quotes Paul again, but from 2nd Timothy 3: 7 this time, indicating that the world cannot become Godly wise because it is “…always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”

And the latter truth is why, according to the Apostle John (see 1st John 2: 15 – 16), we must separate ourselves in the love of God from the world’s way of thinking and living … so that we can take up the torch Jesus mandated for us as Christians to “… let (our) light shine before men that they may see (our) good works, …” [see Matt. 5: 16] and realize that the ways of God are the only ways worthy of pursuit as we live in this foolish world.

My Prayer Today: Shine, Jesus, shine through me! Amen

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011 … The Words of a Fool

Passage of the Day: Proverbs 10: 20 … The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

My Journal for Today: As we’ve seen this month, according to God’s word and His truth, His wisdom begins when we reverence His Name and we live according to His standards. However, the fool of this world, as we noted yesterday, rejects Godly wisdom and lives by his own “natural” ways (see also Prov. 1: 7 and 1st Cor. 2: 14).

As John MacArthur points out in today’s Strength for Todayentry, “the fool” is quick to blurt out his own, selfishly considered opinions. And nothing gives biblical evidence more to this than in Proverbs 15: 2, where it says that “… the tongue of the fool gushes folly.” You’ve heard the fool in our world, especially when/if you know that he is spouting foolishness in direct contradiction to God’s word. The foolishness gushes forth from his mouth like projectile vomiting; and unfortunately, in our politically correct world, sometimes that folly seems to carry the day.

But as we read in James 3: 8 – 12, both bad and good water cannot come forth from the same spring; and the poison that comes from the mouth of the fool, if consumed, pollutes all it contacts. And the foolishness and poison from the hearts/minds/mouths of today’s fools are proliferating at an incredible pace, even from the pulpits of many of today’s churches or from televangelists who purport to be “Christian teachers.” These Satan-honoring words and ideas not only contaminate our world with the ideals they espouse; but sadly they condemn the fools who propagate them. That condemnation may not come from the world at this time (it seldom seems to these days!); but ultimately, as you can read in Prov. 16: 22, it will come from God. So, I pray that I’ll be aware of my own heart of foolishness and avoid its selfish desire to gush forth, restraining myself until I can speak truth from God’s mind.

As Christians we are blessed to have access to the very mind of God, especially being expressed by His Spirit through His word; and when we open ourselves to that fount of wisdom, sharing it with others in His Name and for His glory, our ideas and words express Godly wisdom and reflect His power (see Isaiah 55: 11).

Hence, we move on this month, and prayerfully for life, in our pursuit of God’s way through His word.

My Prayer Today: Speak Your word through my life, Lord! Amen

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17, 2011 … Living In A World of Fools

Passage of the Day: Proverbs 24: 7a … Wisdom is too high for a fool; …

My Journal for Today: John MacArthur writes, in his devotional from Strength for Today for this date, “… we live in a world of fools.” Wow [!]; … how could one read the news and disagree with that? How could one see what’s going on in Washington, DC and disagree with that? How could I view what I’ve done in my past and disagree? Until I was 39 years old, for almost 22 years of my life I was a captive of my sin nature, … bound and gagged in foolishness. Godly wisdom, as today’s verse proclaims, was way out of my scope of reasoning during that time of my life.

Macarthur indicates that there are three things which mark “the fool” in today’s world …

#1. The fool denies God (see Psalm 14: 1), living as if there were no God. It’s what MacArthur calls, “practical atheism,” … a life of corruption and idolatry.

#2. The fool becomes his own God (see Prov. 12: 15a), worshipping and living for self rather than for The Savior, which again is self-indulgent idolatry.

#3. And the fool mocks sin (see Prov. 14: 9a), making up his own rules and being his own standard to justify sinful behavior. His way becomes the “right” way.

Yes, that was me prior to 1977 … a selfish “fool,” who finally looked into God’s mirror of truth and saw myself for whom I really was. However, when I first saw the reality of myself in that mirror, I ran, seeking for wisdom in all the wrong places, … primarily into spiritual thought processes managed by the enemy … “religions” such as Buddhism, Taoism, and New Age-ism. But in 1983, I finally was able to look into God’s mirror of true wisdom and, by God’s grace, sense Christ calling me; and I stepped away from foolishness and moved toward real wisdom. And to a great degree, though I’ve had some fool-hardy selfish detours and distractions along the way, I’ve come to live in the convicted direction of Psalm 119: 9-11, Luke 9: 23, Prov. 3: 5-6, and Romans 12: 1-2 , which, if internalized, shows any born-again sinner-saint how to stay on track and follow God.

Yes, all believers still must contend with the residuals of our sin nature (Rom. 3: 23 and Jer. 17: 9); but now, as born-again believers, we have God’s spirit to bring us toward God’s wisdom and away from worldly foolishness (Gal. 2: 20 and 1st John 4: 4). I don’t have to walk the way of the fool any more; and neither do you if you’ve truly surrendered to Christ and His Spirit.

What is your path these days? Don’t you think it’s time we all get off the selfish track and follow the Savior?

My Prayer Today: Fill me, Lord, that I may never be the worldly fool. Amen

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011 … The Results of True Wisdom

Passage of the Day: James 3: 18 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today:
If you’ve been here studying the pursuit of WISDOM with me this month – i.e., true Godly understanding for living - we’ve used this passage from one of God’s authors, James, on the subject (i.e., James 3: 13 - 18). And in it, James makes the solid connection between Godly wisdom and doing good (i.e., righteous living). Yesterday we saw the very challenging list of attributes (from James 3: 13, 17) that one would expect to find in the mature Christian who ardently pursues Godly wisdom for righteous living.

However, in today’s tag verse (James 3: 18) we read the author using an agricultural word picture to help us realize that it is the Godly wise person who becomes God’s “peacemaker,” sowing the seeds of peace into his own life and reaping the harvest of righteousness. The Greek term for “peace” in this verse is “eirene” [pronounced eye-ray’-nay], which, in the Christian context, would refer to one whose inner being or soul has an deep assurance of salvation and a confidence before God of living for Him. If such a one – a God-surrendered maker of peace – sows such peace into every part of his life, the harvest will be a life of righteous living, which James outlined in the list we reviewed yesterday (again see James 13, 17).

Therefore, John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional on this date, states the equation, “Where true wisdom exists, true righteousness follows,” which then, in turn, becomes the seed for even more righteousness. Again MacArthur: “It’s a continual cycle: one righteous act becomes the seed to grow another righteous act.” It’s like perennial plants which sow their own seeds for renewal and growth in the next growing season – and on and on they grow, producing the peace in a believer’s soul, which, in turn, produces more righteous fruit for God’s glory.

So, I guess it really depends on how much a believer like myself really desires to know the mind of God; because that’s where the seeds are procured. As James 1: 5 – 6 indicates, when a true Christian really pursues Godly wisdom with the expectation that God will provide it, he will receive such wisdom in abundance from God’s grace. And it is those seeds of understanding which, when planted into the life of a Christian, produce Godly living and His fruitfulness (again, see Gal. 5: 22 – 23). That’s why I must continually be reminding myself that my drive to know God and His will is at the heart of just how much fruitfulness I can expect to be harvested in my life.

Therefore, I ask myself, and you who might be following this thread of devotionals, “How much peace do I now have about my pursuit of Godly wisdom; and how much fruit is being reproduced from my life, … the life of one who desires to be God’s peacemaker?” And with that mirror in front of me, I will let God’s word guide me onward to be a wise and fruitful Christian.

My Prayer Today: Lord, let me sow Your seeds and reap Your fruit. Amen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011 … The Qualities of True Wisdom

Passage of the Day: James 3: 17 [ highlight verse - bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: For any who have been following or undertaking this study of the pursuit of Godly wisdom with me during November, you’ll remember that James, the author of our current study in James 3, began our discussion with a rhetorical question he asked in verse 13. He asked who, among his readers, is wise and understanding. Then he begins an answer with a general declaration that the truly wise person is one whose deeds and attitudes will reveal that person’s wisdom [which is a measure of his Christlikeness].

Today, in the highlight verse of James 3: 17, the author is more specific as to the qualities one would find in the Godly wise Christian; and if one reads/studies the list, he/she will find that it is an imposing one, for sure! I think of my oft used word picture of God’s word being a mirror of truth. And the reaction of the natural man when confronted by such a mirror, for example in James’ list in today’s passage, is to either rebel or run from the mirror, not wanting to see what is depicted. However, James is saying that the God-inspired Christian will desire to take what is revealed (i.e., the natural self) and turn himself into the supernatural image of Christ.

In the list presented in James 3: 17, we read that the Godly-wise Christian lives a life of Godly excellence [James 3: 13], where that one is found to be humble, pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy, filled with God’s fruit (see Gal. 5: 22, 23), totally unwavering, and completely without hypocrisy. Wow! What an inventory of values, attitudes, and lifestyle choices! And I don’t know about you; but I’ve got some growing to do as I inventory this list to become a Godly-wise Christian.

Having done an in-depth study of these qualities, even of the Greek terms for each value, I can say that having this list as a periodic viewing into God’s mirror of truth can be a bit painful; but it is a very productive exercise to promote Christian growth. But, we have to be willing to see who REALLY we are when compared with our Model, Who, of course, is Christ.

I strongly believe that God wants His own [i.e., the born-again Christian] to keep looking into God’s mirror of truth/faith (see 2nd Cor. 13: 5), at least periodically, to see where we stand and where we need to grow. That’s why using a self inventory like this one today or looking at another like Paul’s fruit of the Spirit (again see Gal. 5: 22, 23) periodically can be a productive way to let God’s conviction and direction move us closer to Him and so that we can follow Him more readily (see Prov. 3: 5, 6 and Luke 9: 23).

My Prayer Today: Lord, may my life reflect Your mind. Amen

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011 … The Motive for True Wisdom

Passage of the Day: James 3: 17a [highlighted verse in bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: The pursuit of Godly wisdom (i.e., finding the mind/will of God) is a pursuit of purity. So, what is James referring to when he writes that Godly wisdom is first of all “pure?”

Well, the Greek word for “pure” in this verse is the word “men” (pronounced “may’-een”); and, according to John MacArthur in his Strength for Today entry on this date, it refers to “… spiritual integrity and/or moral sincerity.” Jesus Christ was, of course, our perfect example, as He is with all such characteristics to which we ascribe as Christians. Following Jesus’ life, we see a total absence of the jealousy and/or selfish ambition referred to in James 3: 16, which characterizes the wisdom and/or understanding pursued by or coming from the world or the flesh.

As MacArthur puts it, “… the true believer (in Christ) will [as he matures in the faith] have pure desires;” … and I would add that if a Christian falls into choices and/or behaviors characterized as “impure,” he/she will be immediately convicted by that thought or action as Paul spoke of in Romans 7: 15 – 21. And that is God’s Spirit calling the Christian to purity and then onward to know God and His way more deeply … with purity becoming more and more a part of that Christian’s sanctified life.

In Old Testament prophesy (see Ezekiel 11: 19), God said to His people that He would give them a new heart, … a totally pure and undefiled love for God. Now, though there may be debate over the context of the passage from which Ezek. 11: 19 comes (i.e., Ezekiel 11: 16 – 25), I believe this was a reference to the purity of heart found in the believer rewarded in Heaven from the Great White Throne Judgment. In other words, when all of God’s people are taken to God’s ultimate “promised land” in the New Heaven, we will have totally pure hearts; and our pursuits will be totally focused on worship of the Lamb of God. That is the ultimate completion and perfection referred to by Paul in Phil. 1: 6; and it is the ultimate outcome of sanctification. However, until that prophesy becomes reality in glory, it must be the goal of every believer, as we read in today’s verse, to pursue the mind of God with as much spiritual energy and purity of heart as we can muster.

Unfortunately right now, in this life, that heart for Godly wisdom, is, as MacArthur puts it, is “…incarcerated in our old flesh,” which is going to produce continual warfare (see Romans 7: 22 – 23). But God has blessed the born-again believer with a newly indwelt heart, one which seeks after purity (see Matt. 5: 8); and one which is stronger than that of the flesh or the enemy (see 1st John 4: 4). And one day in glory, after pursuing God through the rigors of sanctification, our hearts will be as Christ’s (meditate on 1st John 3: 2). And to that end, even now in our imperfection, we must pursue God’s mind for His glory.

My Prayer Today: Help me to find Your heart, O Lord, and to be pure as I seek to know You and become more like You. Amen

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13, 2011 … The Results of False Wisdom

Passage of the Day: James 3: 16 - 17 [highlight verses in bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: Okay, in the passage we’ve been considering for the last few days, James, the pragmatic half-brother of Jesus, from God’s inspiration for His Word, lays out our choice, as Christians, when it comes to pursuing “wisdom.” We can either choose worldly or human wisdom; or we can choose to pursue the wisdom of God.

Therefore, as James reveals in James 3: 16 - 17, today’s highlighted passage, there is truly a wise believer, from pursuing the mind of God – primarily from His Word – who has an attitude of humility and meekness and whose life is marked by Godly works (see James 3: 13). … OR, there is the one, non-believer or Christian, who pursues human and/or worldly wisdom, and whose attitude is marked by self-centeredness, one whose life produces disorder, chaos, or in the words of James, “… every evil practice.” So, when we look at our own attitudes, motives, and/or actions (especially our habit patterns), we ought to be able to determine whether we’re choosing to pursue the mind of God or use the patterns of our flesh or the world to glean wisdom in order to live our lives. And a discerning Christian, tempered by humility, also ought to be able to see Christian attitudes/actions, or lack thereof, in the lives of others. That discernment is also a reflection of Godly wisdom.

I would certainly say, without hesitation, that today’s world, even our daily news, is replete with evidence that the world’s pursuit of knowledge/understanding through science, worldly education, humanistic philosophies, and even some works-oriented religions, has in-fact produced the realm of chaos and evil that we see all around us. And that is what is prophesied by one of today’s highlighted verses (see James 3: 16 ).

However, when you find a Christian – a true born-again believer – in head-long pursuit of the mind and/or will of God, you will see a person whose life is marked by the fruit of the Spirit, most especially lit up by love, joy, and peace [which are also reflected in James 3: 17].

What about it? Is your life a light for Christ in this sin-darkened world? Are the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5: 22 – 23] evident when others look at your life? Or when one sees our lives on display for the world to see, do any of the fruit of the flesh shine forth like a neon sign [see Gal. 5: 19 – 21]? If the latter is the case, perhaps we could be seeking our own way in life by pursuing the ways of our own deceitful hearts or by trying to selfishly find our knowledge or understanding in the world. When are we going to see that the truth of James 3: 13 – 18 demands that we seek our wisdom from God and God alone?

Yes, the probing inventory continues. Which type of wisdom will be our pursuit? I know that my heart is to find God’s way and His will through His word; but too often I revert to a pursuit of knowledge or wisdom with selfish motives. Oh, how I pray to avoid the latter and pursue the former.

My Prayer Today: Make mine Yours, Lord! Amen

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 2011 … Identifying False Wisdom

Passage of the Day: James 3: 15 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: Make no mistake about “wisdom” [i.e., our understanding of life]. It takes on two distinct forms; and in James 3: 13 – 15, today’s passage repeated in the last few days, God, through James, shows us the two quite clearly.

First, there is Godly wisdom, primarily provided by God’s grace for man’s well being. And then there is worldly wisdom, which is so-often falsely pursued and created by man and channeled from Satan or the world for man’s selfish desire as he tries to understand those elements of life which impact him. We have seen in these past days that when a believer mines God’s truth with an attitude of humility and expectation (again, see Job 28), primarily from God’s word or insights from His Spirit, God will provide His will and His way to man in abundance (see James 1: 5 – 6). However, when man, from an attitude of selfishness or ambition, seeks understanding from life on his own, such “wisdom” may come from his own heart (and we see what we can get into going that route (Jeremiah 17: 9). Our search for understand also may come from Satan or the world (see today’s verse), who are certainly ready to deceive us and draw us away from God, resulting in all kinds of disorder and evil (read ahead to James 3: 16).

That’s what happened when Solomon was given discernment to pursue wisdom from God (see 1st Kings 3: 5 – 13 - linked here). God was pleased with Solomon when he had a chance to gain anything from God; and the new king chose wisdom. So, God provided Solomon with a discerning heart, provisionally allowing the king to be the wisest man who ever lived. But we know from “the rest of the story” that Solomon blew it by pursuing selfish pleasures and power later in life rather than God’s presence and plan; and the book of Ecclesiastes chronicles what Solomon learned about those pursuits. We also read [see Eccles. 12: 13] that the Hebrew King finally came to God’s conclusion, giving all believers the insights from his experience: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” And much of the book of Proverbs [especially Chapters 1 – 9] was, I believe, Solomon’s attempt to get that message across to his son (and from God to all of us). Think of the oft-quoted exhortation of Prov. 3: 5 -6 where Solomon desperately wanted his son [and readers like you or me] to trust in God for direction and his warning not to lean on our own, human, understanding.

And the Apostle Paul in the New Testament warned Christians to beware of the agents of Satan in the world – even within the church – disguising themselves as ministers of light and righteousness (2nd Cor. 11: 14 – 15). Paul says that we’ll get what we deserve if we cannot discern man’s version of “truth” from God’s perfect word; and that will be what our selfish desires get from what Satan provides. The history of mankind and God’s chronicles of His chosen people (see all of the book of Judges), are evidence of what man will get when he chooses to pursue human understanding rather than Godly wisdom.

How are we doing? How are YOU doing?

My Prayer Today: Help me see Your true wisdom, Lord, as I live in this world. Amen

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011 … Being Honest – Also Wise

Passage of the Day: James 3: 14 [highlight verse in bold/underlined] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday I ended my devotional journal entry with a challenge to any reader who is serious in his relationship with Christ [but mostly the challenge was for myself!]. I asked us to do an inventory of our attitudes to see if we truly seek to know God, a goal which I would assume is shared by every Christian. John MacArthur in his Strength for Today entry for this date has a similar charge, comparing James 3: 13 with verse 3: 14 and asking believers to be honest in their hearts about how much we would want to know our God.

In seeking to know the mind of God, we must probe more deeply to determine whether our pursuit of wisdom has self-centered motives; or are we “other-motivated” in our life search for understanding, knowledge, and insight into God’s word [the Holy sanctuary of God’s will]. In light of James’ questions in James 3: 13, MacArthur writes, “Humility is the hallmark of the wise person.” And from my past studies, I know, as I hope readers do as well, that humility is the key to God’s grace (see James 4: 6 or 1st Peter 5: 5 – 6).

One of the endowments of God’s enabling grace is insight into Himself. So, when a believer humbly comes to God, usually digging into His Holy Word [remember the word picture of Job 28 - i.e., mining deeply for wisdom], God is most willing to pour out His wisdom to that expectant believer. That is the promise of James 1: 5 – 6, a promise which comes from God to believers from His own word. However, you’re not going to find that grace-empowered wisdom being dealt out to those who are motivated by pride, bitter jealousy, or selfish ambition, … nor those who brag about their achievements.

No, such a person is living a lie from hell which stands against the truth of the Gospel. Seeing such a person, one would really have to wonder if he were saved at all or if he were a Christian fool, severely out of fellowship with his Savior; … and most certainly one who is out of line with God’s will.

Therefore, once again I challenge us all to take stock and see if we are pursuing God’s mind with the humility which marks a sincere and serious Christian seeker to know His Lord and Savior.

My Prayer Today: Humbly, Lord, I pray to know You and to share Your truths with others. Amen

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 10, 2011 … Living Unselfishly – A Wise Choice

Passage of the Day: James 3: 14a [highlight verse in bold/underline] … 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

My Journal for Today: This month we began our pursuit of Godly wisdom with a question from James (remember or see above: James 3: 13). In the next few days I’ll be continuing to answer his question, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” So, if you’re following me here, you’re going to need to see the contextual passage following James’ question explained (i.e., James 3: 14 – 18). Today the focus begins to highlight a comparison with Godly wisdom by declaring one of qualities one will NOT see in the Godly wise person … that of “bitter envy.”

In fact, this comparative passage implies that the pursuit of worldly understanding often produces envy, tinged by bitterness and/or jealousy. The translated construct “bitter envy” comes from two Greek terms. The first is “pikros,” which points to one who has a driven attitude, bound up in self-centeredness; and it is paired with the term “eritheia,” where one exhibits a “me versus them” attitude. So, James is saying that the dogged pursuit of worldly understanding often produces people who are selfish, highly-competitive, and uncaring. And is this not the case in the elitist, academic circles of our world? I’ve been there, folks. I was on the faculties of two major universities for over 30 years; and the “publish or perish” mentality pushes academia to pursue worldly knowledge to get their name in print before others … often at any cost.

James is saying that those tendencies will not be found in the one who pursues Godly wisdom. This becomes an exhortation by exclusion from God’s word for the Christian to beware of seeking worldly knowledge with no thought of God’s way so that one can rise above others. Rather, as we saw earlier this month in our discussion of James 3: 13, the pursuit of Godly wisdom will drive the believer to know the mind of God (i.e., His will) in order to serve others, ultimately resulting in “deeds done in humility.”

Hence, we need to ask ourselves, “Is my drive toward understanding and knowledge to get ahead of others or is it to serve them?” If we know that we’re in Christ and it is the latter, then we are likely pursuing Godly wisdom with a Godly attitude.

My Prayer Today: May I know You, Lord, so as to serve You and others. Amen

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November 9, 2011 … Knowing the Right Answers

Passage of the Day: 1st Corinthians 1: 20 … Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

My Journal for Today: Today’s passage reminds one of the question James asked to start off this month, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” [James 3: 13] And the more that yours truly, this born-again believer, contemplates my search for Godly wisdom, the more awesome becomes the realization of what has happened to my mental approach to life since I became a converted believer in Christ.

The Apostle Paul laid out this process for Christians, beginning with today’s passage and on through 1st Cor. 1: 20 – 30 [which I’ll not print here for space considerations – but I expect you to study this passage to which I’ll link you for study]. He also related a similar exhortation to the Colossians (in Col. 2: 3) … that we Christians have “… all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Peter claimed that Christians have all we need from God (see 2nd Peter 1: 2 – 4) to live our lives in harmony with Him. And today’s passage closes with a question that hits the nail of truth right on the head … pointing out that God has made foolish, through His infinite mind, all the wisdom of this world. [See Isaiah 55: 8-9 for this truth.]

Hence, I – Bill Berry – have the very mind of God in Christ, especially through His written word, the Bible, as well as the enlightenment ministry of God’s Spirit, to give me answers to questions/issues which seemingly baffle the world … issues like capital punishment (see Gen. 9: 6 and Romans 13), abortion (see Deut. 30: 19 and Psalm 139: 13), and homosexuality (see Lev. 20: 13 and Romans 1: 26 – 27). As John MacArthur puts it in his devotional for this date from Strength for Today, “Knowing Christ makes the believer wiser than the world.”

But note that phrase in MacArthur’s quote … knowing Christ.” It is true, as John says in 1st John 4: 4, that “…the One [God’s Spirit] Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” However, if a believer, by apathy, laziness, or refusal, is ignorant of the mind of Christ in him, that one becomes weakened in his understanding of God’s ways by not “knowing Christ” to the extent he could if he developed a deep and abiding relationship with our Lord. And such inward and limited thinking will produce inward and limited behavior … and certainly much less Godly behavior than the one who diligently seeks, finds, and uses the wisdom of God. [Again, Job wrote about this in Chapter 28 of his book.]

Do you really KNOW Christ, … intimately, deeply, completely? Because the more you know Him, the more you will know His mind; and knowing His mind, as the scriptures above proclaim, allows you to have all the wisdom and understanding you need to live in this life so that you might avoid sinfulness and live in Christlikeness. Is that not worthy of anything we can do to pursue the mind of Christ in this life? [Remember the study from Job 28 on mining the mind of God. See my devotional entries for Nov. 6 -7 for this review.]

This is pretty awesome stuff [!], wouldn’t you say? And so, what I, and all believers, must do is to trust God’s truth, as I wrote yesterday about from 2nd Tim. 3: 16 – 17, and let the very mind of God lead me on God’s path of life (as it says in Prov. 3: 5 – 6.

My Prayer Today: I do trust you, Lord; and I will continue to search for Your truth. Amen

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

November 8, 2011 … Submitting To Wisdom

Passage of the Day: Psalm 111: 10 … The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

My Journal for Today: Besides today’s passage from the Psalms, as well as those from Solomon [Prov. 1: 7 and 9: 10], which declare that one’s reverence of God is the beginning of all true wisdom, we see that the Psalmist [author unknown of PS. 111] also declares that those who follow God’s precepts develop a good understanding of life. There are a number of verses in God’s word which also declare this truth. Let me document a few of them here [all NIV]

Job 28: 28 - And [God] said to man, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.'

Prov. 8: 13 - To fear the LORD is to hate evil; …

John 14: 15 – [Jesus] “If you love me, you will obey what I command.“

1st John 2: 3We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.

James 3: 13 - Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Maybe you’re getting the picture. Any time God’s word paints a picture repetitively by several authors, I know that I need to pay attention. If we, as Christians, truly believe the truth of 2nd Timothy 3: 16 – 17, which states clearly that God’s Word (The Bible) is the very mind of God, which He has provided for our instruction and our living, then these passages above are very clear that obedience to God’s word characterizes the life of one who loves the Lord and desires to know and follow His way [in other words one who has a “fear of the Lord”].

As John MacArthur puts it in His Strength for Today devotional for this date: “Saving faith is obedient faith. … Obeying the Lord’s commandments and shunning evil are dynamics that work in the soul of one who truly fears God.”

Therefore, it’s time to stop and reflect; and … well, I think you know what we must ask and then what we must do!

My Prayer Today: All I want to do, Lord, is to live in the center of Your will. Amen

Monday, November 07, 2011

November 7, 2011 … Knowing God

Passage of the Day: Job 28: 28 [in bold/underlined] 23 ... God understands the way to it [i.e., wisdom] and He alone knows where it dwells, 24 for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. 25 When He established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, 26 when He made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, 27 then He looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it. 28 And He said to man, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.' "

My Journal for Today:
If you’re following along with me this month, yesterday I asked you to read and meditate upon Job, all of Chapter 28, where the much maligned Job lamented about where one might find God’s mind – i.e., His wisdom. And in verse 28, Job quoted God’s decree of where it can be found … in the “fear of the Lord,” … with the understanding of God’s wisdom being exhibited by the believer in the shunning of evil.

This is the same refrain echoed by Solomon when the King wrote to his son (and to you and me by extension), “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [i.e., wisdom], but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” [Proverbs 1: 7] And in Prov. 9: 10, Solomon similarly penned, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.“

Solomon really wanted his son to understand how important Godly wisdom was for God’s children; and I believe through his life and many failures (chronicled in the book of Ecclesiastes), Solomon had come to the realization of where true wisdom resides – i.e., in the mind of God alone; and that is where it must be pursued. So, if Solomon’s son – and any Christian – desires to understand and reflect Godly wisdom in his/her life, that one must know God’s mind. And for us, as Christians pursuing Godly wisdom, the best place to find God’s mind is in God’s word (see 2nd Tim. 3: 16 – 17).

Therefore, for the Christian, fearing God [i.e., revering and/or submitting to God, the Holy Spirit], is the key to open God’s mind for His wisdom; and this begins at salvation and growing to the extent that the believer (i.e., a truly converted Christian) knows and reveres God and lives according to His truth. All of life, therefore, becomes a head-long – no, probably better said, a “heart-long” – pursuit to know God; because the more a Christian knows God, that believer will reflect God in living worship, which is the 24/7 life of Godly values, attitudes, and behavior [and right now some of you may be thinking, as am I, of Romans 12: 1-2, which reflects this truth].

So, I must ask myself - as should you – “Do I fear God? … Do I know Him?” And my answer is to both questions is, for sure; … BUT … NOT WELL ENOUGH! Therefore, as the word picture in Job 28 indicates [see yesterday’s entry], it will be my life-long pursuit to mine God’s mind from His word.

My Prayer Today: To know You, Lord is to live for You. Amen

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November 6, 2011 … Searching for Wisdom

Passage of the Day: Job 28 [Yes, the entire chapter. Please read it – linked here!]

My Journal for Today:
I’m captivated by the word picture created by Job in Chapter 28, who, because of his dire circumstances became a desperate seeker after the mind of God (i.e., His wisdom). In this chapter, in his deep personal confusion, he pictured the search for wisdom by a man like himself as being like that of the mining practices of his day. If you do a little study on this, as I have, you’ll find out that ancient miners, seeking the precious gems and/or ore of the time, would dig deep vertical shafts into the rock or earth; and then they would lower themselves down on harnesses into the earth to dig further or to pick for the precious gems or ore which they sought. The shafts were barely wide enough for one man to fit into them; and the deeper the hole became, the greater was the risk for cave-in and death for the seeker. But at the same time, as the risk became greater, so did the chances that the miner would pull up products of greater value.

Job saw our search for wisdom like those mining practices of his day. We pick away, mining in the risky life of this world, digging and digging into our relationship with God, … trying to find what we can from God’s mine (of his mind) of great value, many times searching to find the most precious of all commodities, … jewels from the very mind or heart of God. The frustration of such a search is reflected in Job 28: 21, where Job writes, “It [Godly wisdom] is hidden from the eyes of every living thing;…” and if we seek for God’s precious gems of wisdom in the minefield of this world, we will never find the treasures He has waiting for us.

However, … after exploring the metaphor of earthly mining for God’s precious wisdom, Job came (at the end of Chapter 28, in verse 28) to a gem of wisdom, when he quoted directly from God, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Now, that is a jewel for which we’d be well served to mine in this life and eternally. One might call it a HOPE DIAMOND in God’s treasure chest of wisdom. As John MacArthur puts it in today’s devotional entry from Strength for Today, “Wisdom is found in a Person, not in a place.” Knowing and fearing (i.e., revering) God is the only productive mine where we can dig for true – Godly - wisdom.

True wisdom – the very mindset of God – can only be found in an exhaustive – and sometimes even risky – pursuit of knowing God Himself; and our understanding will be measured by the degree to which we obey His word and depart from the evil God desires for us to avoid (i.e., sin). And we have the richest mine field of all for digging for God’s wisdom available to us in the pages of His word.

Now, I ask myself, “Am I mining for the mind of God deeply enough?” It’s a question worthy of finding the precious answer … the jewels of Godly wisdom.

My Prayer Today: Help me to mine deeply enough to find gems of Your wisdom, dear Lord. Amen

Saturday, November 05, 2011

November 5, 2011 … Living A Fulfilled Life

Passage of the Day: Ecclesiastes 12: 13 … Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

My Journal for Today: As Solomon exhorted in today’s passage, Christians can – and must – search for the mind of God (i.e., for Godly wisdom) by fearing God and keeping His commandments. Much of this wisdom book in the Old Testament is, I believe, Solomon’s later life reflections on all the human wisdom God allowed him to have. He discovered later in life, in penning the book of Ecclesiastes, that all his human wisdom led him to nothing but vanity. As Solomon reflected in Eccles. 1: 16 – 18, when it comes to dealing with life, all the human wisdom in the world will simply not “cut it.” He said that chasing human wisdom was like chasing after the wind; and I think that’s a very apt word picture. And toward the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon warns the child of God [in today’s verse] to “… fear God and keep His commandments” … as the “… whole duty of man.”

That is also what James, the brother of Jesus, whom we’ve been learning from in the last few days, was saying in James 3: 13 – 16 [see below], … warning believers, as did Solomon, that the pursuit of human wisdom is earthly and fleshly, and can be demonic, yielding nothing but disorder and evil practice.

James 3: 13 – 16Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

So, here we have two wise believers, shaped by years of life’s experience, warning us to avoid the folly of pursuing human wisdom and doing all we can, with reverence and obedience to God, to find and apply the mind of God to our lives.

Therefore, I hope you join me in the remainder of this month’s devotional pursuit, learning from God’s word what we must do to find God’s way from His word, … and that is to fear (i.e., reverence) God and to live life in obedience to His will. I believe, as we do this, we will do what Solomon and James desired of fellow believers … to discover and apply the very mind of God to our lives.

My Prayer Today: O Lord, how I’m driven to know Your mind and to make Your way, my way! Amen

Friday, November 04, 2011

November 4, 2011 … Being Wise In Adversity

Blogger's Note: Back on daily posting schedule, with the 11/3 post from yesterday being delayed until posting this day (11/4). But as you'll note, God's timing was perfect in my oversight. These two devotional journal entries are perfectly paired to go together. So I hope any readers will not be discouraged and read/study them in tandem this AM. ... Sorry for bunching them together like this. wrb

Passage of the Day: James 3: 13 … from the NIV … Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James 3: 13 … from the NASB … Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

James 3: 13 …from the NKJV … Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

My Journal for Today: Okay, day four on James 3: 13; and I have retained all three versions of this passage above for your review and consideration again today. And in his Strength for Today devotional for this date, John MacArthur once again focuses on the quality of MEEKNESS, as we did in yesterday’s study. The two-day highlight shows to me just how important MacArthur feels this Christlike quality is to the Christian pursuit of Godly wisdom in the Christian walk.

In his entry for this date, MacArthur quotes from a commentary on the book of James by one Robert Johnstone, who wrote his treatise on James over 100 years ago; and even then, this writer recognized how contrary the attitude and witness of “meekness” was to the worldly conception of “manliness.” And today, even more obviously, we live in a world where a man’s man would be marked by independence, self assertion, and the desire for control. “Meekness” for the man of today, as well as for men in Johnstone’s day, would be labeled as weakness, a quality to be avoided.

But if we believers aspire to Christlikeness, we have to take a look at Jesus as our model of attitude. In fact, the Apostle Paul flat-out said it was our duty as Christians to develop the attitudes of Christ (see Phil. 2: 5); and if we study the life of Jesus, we see THE model of THE man’s man … a model that the worldly man would not provide for us. Jesus was not only the model of manhood for Christians, He was the GOD-MAN; and as we saw yesterday, the only two terms He used to describe Himself was as being “gentle (i.e., meek) and humble of heart” [that found in NIV Matt. 11: 29). And I also pointed out yesterday that Jesus directly blessed the attitude of meekness in His Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5: 5). In fact, His whole life on this earth, especially His time of ministry, was a walk of meekness and humble surrender to His Father. When Christ was led to the cross, He could have called down legions of angels to defend Him; but due to His – meekness – He spoke not a word in His defense.

So, does this mean we can never assert our strength or stand up – even in anger – in our Christian walk? Hardly. Jesus certainly demonstrated Godly anger and assertiveness when he turned over the tables in God’s Temple (see John 2: 13 – 22). And righteous anger is a topic for discussion at another time; but Jesus never would have never wanted His righteous anger, which was always exercised in support of His Father, to trump the humility and meekness He modeled the greatest portion of His life.

Christ’s meekness came from His absolute surrender to His Heavenly Father. And our meekness should be our absolute surrender to Christ. And in Luke 9: 23, which I pray you now have etched in your hearts/minds by now, Jesus spoke to His followers about how we can exercise meekness (and humility) in our Christian walk as He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

I have to ask myself (as you should yourselves), “Is my Christian walk one of meekness?” And if not, what do I need to do in my pursuit of Christlikeness to allow me to become a meek pursuer of Godly wisdom?

My Prayer Today: Again, Lord, I pray … help me to be like You. Amen