Proverbs – An Introduction

WisdomYou can listen to the podcast here.

We kick off a new series here at C4. I’m sure many people are aware of some of the things they will hear in this study, but may not know that it originated from the Bible. As we dig into the Scriptures, we find there is an inexhaustible wealth of knowledge and wisdom contained within its pages. The Bible can lead people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by grace through faith, and it can also teach mature believers truth that will change our lives. In an age where common sense has become uncommon, the book of Proverbs provides truth and wisdom so we can reject harmful and wrong behavior in order to authentically pursue Christ. Proverbs deals with normal, ordinary aspects of life from social skills, marriage and parenting to stewardship and personal disciplines. I encourage you to read a chapter of Proverbs each day, every month and learn from its incredible truths.

If you go back in the family tree of Israel’s leaders, you’ll find some wonderful people. One of my favorite Old Testament books is Ruth. It’s a great story of redemption not just for Ruth, but for us too because Boaz is an illustration of Christ’s redemption for mankind. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. David is one of the greatest characters of Scripture and is described as a man after God’s own heart. While David did many great things, he is known for some not so great things. One of those is the story of David and Bathsheba. The son that was conceived in adultery would later die as a result of David’s sin. But David and Bathsheba had another son named Solomon.

Prov. 1:1 tells us these are, “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” A proverb is an ethical teaching, a short pithy saying; it states a general truth or a piece of advice. The proverbs we’ll look at in this series can be trusted. They are from God’s mouth. How did Solomon get to this position? I hope you’ll take the time and get your Bible so you can follow along. Read 1 Ki. 2:1-4. David had some other things to say to Solomon and we come to 1 Ki. 2:10-12. So Solomon becomes the third king of Israel about 970 B.C. We don’t know how old he is, but many scholars believe he was about 12-14 years old when he becomes king. 1 Ki. 3:3 says, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” Notice that Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statutes of David.

This sets up a remarkable dream sequence in which God appears to Solomon. In the dream God says to Solomon, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s request is found in 1 Ki. 3:6-9. He first acknowledges the covenant God made with David that was prophesied by Nathan in 2 Sam. 7:12, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.” David walked before the Lord, “In truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward God.” David was loyal to God and God was loyal to David. We have to assume there was significant parental instruction and teaching to Solomon and yet Solomon confessed he needed God’s help because he was, “a little child, I do not know how to go out or come in.” This literally refers to his lack of leadership skill. Even though he is young and inexperienced, he is chosen to lead God’s people. Solomon is in the same position that was held by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and his father David. So Solomon asks for an understanding heart – this literally means a listening or obedient heart. In the Hebrew language, hearing and obeying come from the same word. The idea is that if you heard something, you would obey it. This all comes from Solomon’s desire to judge God’s people effectively. This is only possible when the king knows the difference between good and evil. God responds in 1 Ki. 3:10-13. Solomon asked for wisdom – that’s biblical. Ja. 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Not only does God give Solomon wisdom exceeding that of any other man, God gives him riches and honor. But there is a caveat – a conditional clause in v. 14. Too often we want God’s promise without doing what God requires.

Are you asking yourself, was Solomon really that wise? Matt. 12:42 says, “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

1 Ki. 4:29-34 says, “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” We will look at many of those proverbs in this study. Solomon will offer wisdom for everyday life. Will we be willing to listen and obey?


Dear Christian

LetterYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we closed out Peter’s second letter. He challenged us to be on guard so we don’t get carried away by the nonsense of the false teachers and mockers. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ – it’s not an option. This morning, we shift over to the short letter of Jude. Some have called this brief letter the most neglected in the New Testament with 2 and 3 John being close behind. There is a reason we are following Peter’s letters with Jude.

Jude is sometimes overlooked because it is so short, just 25 verses. It’s found just before Revelation and maybe people come to this letter and see Revelation next to it and simply skip it. Since it’s in the Bible, it stands to reason that God wants us to read it, learn from it, and apply the truths that are found therein. Like Peter, the message of the coming judgment have led many to conclude the letter is intolerant and contrary to the love of God taught extensively throughout the Scriptures. So why does this letter exist? Are there any applications to be made? What truths does it contain that help us glorify Christ? We’ll answer these questions and more as we dig into the epistle of Jude.

Jude 1-2 says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Here’s some history about the human author. Verse 1 indicates the author to be none other than Jude. Who was he? We know a lot about Peter, James and John. We have tons of information about Paul and Timothy. In N.T. writings, no human author seems to be more mysterious than Jude. Little information is found in Scripture so let’s concentrate on what we do know. He calls himself, “A bond servant of Jesus Christ.” This is significant because of what the word means. It comes from the Greek word doulos meaning slave. It means pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something. Slavery played a divisive yet important role in America’s history. This is not the same thing. Jude willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Jude identified himself as the, “Brother of James.” Jude’s readers must know who James is because no other identifier is used. Who was James? Identifying him is a little tricky because surnames were not prevalent in those days. People were typically identified by their home region, occupation, or whose son they were. Of course the best example is Jesus of Nazareth. Don’t forget Saul of Tarsus. The famous Mary Magdalene from Magdala. Simon bar Jonah – son of John. Remember Alexander the coppersmith that did Paul such harm. So in answering who is James, we need to use the Bible to interpret itself.

I encourage you to study this for yourself and when you do you’ll see James is a fairly common name in Scripture. James is mentioned in numerous places in Acts as a prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him one of the pillars of the church in Galatians. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James in 1 Cor. 15:7 and according to Matt. 13:55, he was the brother of the Son of the carpenter. Who was the Son of the carpenter? Jesus. So James is the brother of Jesus and Jude is the brother of James so Jude is also the brother of Jesus. So it’s interesting that Jude prefers to call himself a slave of Jesus and brother of James rather than identifying himself as the Lord’s brother. It’s also important to note that even though we know that Jude spent his life with Jesus the Messiah, Mark 3 and John 7:5 says that while Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him.” So when Jesus was alive, his brothers did not accept Him as Savior. It was at some point after His death that they believed. Jude writes with the authority of being a slave to Christ and a brother to James.

Who does Jude write to? We have seen in other studies where the author writes to a specific people. We studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, his letters to the Thessalonians. He also wrote to other local churches. Peter wrote to Christians that were scattered due to severe persecution. Jude doesn’t identify a church, but simply writes to, Those who are the called, the beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” We need to break this verse into three parts to see just who Jude writes to because if we miss that, the purpose of the letter is lost. First is, “Those who are the called.” Some have used this phrase to prove that God will only save certain people He predetermined or predestined to save. I would conclude that saying that is a gross mishandling of Scripture. “Called” here is an adjective that describes the pronoun, “those”. Remember back just 6 weeks ago, Peter told us, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) God’s desire is for everyone to respond to the Gospel and choose to accept the forgiveness for sin Christ offered on the cross. That’s His desire, but that’s not what actually happens.

Second is the phrase, “The beloved in God.” While we recognize that God loved the world and gave His Son (Jo. 3:16), this phrase describes, “those who are the called.”  The reason believers are called is because God first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:19) God loves us even if we don’t love Him back.

Finally, Jude writes to those that are, “Kept for Jesus Christ.” Peter said Christians, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5) Peter and Jude are conveying the same meaning. Let’s put together who Jude is writing to. Called. Beloved. Kept. This trifecta indicates that Jude is writing to Christians in general – the universal church. He finishes his introduction with another trifecta: “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Don’t overlook this simple greeting. God’s mercy means He doesn’t give us what we deserve – death. Mercy affords us the opportunity to receive salvation through accepting the forgiveness offered by Christ. That leads to peace with God because we have been reconciled through Christ. That reconciliation is manifested by love in the spirit of 1 Jo. 4:7-8 that says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

I’ve set it up this way to ensure you understand this brief letter. The things Jude is getting ready to say are not particular to a local assembly of believers like in other Bible books.  This message is for us and we need to pay close attention in the coming weeks. I guarantee this letter is going to knock your socks off.

False Teachers are Animals

Dragon AttackYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that false teachers indulged their flesh. They despised authority and had very high opinions of themselves. The false teachers were bold and arrogant and because of this, God’s judgment of them is right, proper, and just. This morning, Peter wastes no time in telling it like it is.

2 Pet. 2:12-13 tells us, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.”

Peter describes these false teachers by saying they are, “Like unreasoning animals.” Remember they had a high opinion of themselves. The KJV translations calls them, “brute beasts.” Consider this phrase because it really is quite harsh. Peter says the behavior of these false teachers is, “like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct.” The false teachers prided themselves on their intellect. They act on instinct rather than reason. They are controlled by their feelings. Animals act without reason. In the wild, animals don’t kill for fun; they kill when they’re hungry or threatened. These false teachers acted on their desires and feelings rather than upon reason. I’m not saying deny your feelings, God gave them to you, but don’t be like false teachers. We hear all the time people saying, “I feel like the Lord . . .” Don’t tell me you “feel” in a way that is contrary to Scripture. Don’t tell me some spiritual mumbo jumbo and cover it by telling me you have peace about it. I’m put on edge very quickly when people throw out that spiritual talk when it’s obvious they haven’t consulted God or His Word about anything. They’re not using reason, they’re using feelings. Feelings will typically get you in trouble when you allow them to control your actions.

Peter is considering what happens to animals. They are, “Captured and killed.” Think about this. Animals were designed by God for us to have dominion over, to provide meat for us to eat and skin to cloth ourselves. They’re captured and killed. The false teachers are like unreasoning animals. If that’s not bad enough, these false teachers revile, “Where they have no knowledge.” While Peter is talking about false teachers, I think this really describes the church world that we live in. Remember revile comes from the same word where we get blaspheme. Blaspheme in general, means to show a lack of respect, or to speak irreverently about God or His Word. People today do this frequently and perhaps may not even know it. They’ll tell me all kinds of things about God, the Bible, their behavior, their opinions, etc. where they have no knowledge. You’ve heard it too. God is love and therefore wouldn’t condemn people to hell. God wants me to be happy and He doesn’t want me to live like this. I don’t have to participate in the things of God to be a good Christian. I know it’s wrong, but I hope God will forgive me. These kind of statements are just like the false teachers that spoke wrongly about God. Before you say dumb things, at the very least check out what God says in His Word. Listen to what happens to them, “But these [false teachers] will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.” The same thing that happens to the animals will happen to the false teachers. Destruction is coming.

Peter’s condemnation continues in the next verse. Sometimes we wonder when judgment will come. We don’t wonder about ourselves, but for others. When are people going to pay for what they’ve done? I don’t know the time or the place, but it will come. Peter begins a series of short sentences. He begins the series in v. 13 by saying, “Suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong.” Wrong here actually means injure. In other words, they reap what they sow. When you sow bad seeds, you get bad crops. Gal. 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” These people will be injured for injuring others. Jer. 4:22, “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.” You get what you give. “They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Nothing good happens after midnight. They are so consumed with evil that they don’t wait until dark to engage in their illicit behavior.  Rom. 13:12-13, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” The daytime is when normal people work and instead these false teachers are indulging in their pleasures. “They are stains and blemishes.” Remember these false teachers were in the church according to 2:1. What they engage in, what they practice, their manner of life leaves a stain on the congregation. “Reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” Revel means gain great pleasure from. Carouse means lively drinking party. These false teachers are not alone, they’re engaging in these activities with people from the church, because the people from the church have been deceived.

Once again, Peter declares that it really does matter what you do in life. Be careful who you hang out with and what they lead you to do. Know the truth and follow it. There are no excuses.

Divine Power

LightningYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we kicked off our study in Peter’s second letter. We saw he writes to Gentiles in the first century around 60-65 A.D. Peter identified himself as a slave and an apostle. He reminded us that we are one in Christ because of His righteousness. This morning, let’s look at the incredible power of God.

Peter writes in 2 Pet. 1:2-3, Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Peter offers up a nice greeting and says nearly the same thing as he did in 1 Pet. 1:2. The assumption is that his readers have grace and peace. They have saving faith by grace that gives all Christians equal standing with God through Jesus. We have peace as a fruit of the Spirit given at salvation to all who have received God’s righteousness as Peter mentioned in v. 1. Grace and peace are multiplied through knowing God and Jesus Christ our Lord. In verse 1 Peter used the phrase God and Savior. Now he says God and of Jesus Christ – two people which is a more typical greeting in Scripture. This is not just head knowledge, but knowledge that evokes change, knowledge that transforms. What good is knowledge that results only in knowledge? That’s why we’ve all taken examinations of one form or another. There must be intellectual knowledge, but there must also be personal and relational knowledge. Intellectual knowledge should lead to a heart knowledge. There’s a difference between knowing someone and having a relationship with someone. Just because someone is your friend on Facebook does not mean you are best friends.

Knowledge is critical to Peter. In his first letter, he spent time refuting the Gnostics that concluded knowledge was the be all to end all. As long as you had the knowledge, that was all you needed. Peter said no, he said that knowledge must be reflected in behavior. The Gnostics believed it didn’t matter how you live as long as you were enlightened with knowledge. I half think that’s where people in the church are today. They have the knowledge of right and wrong, of good and bad, but it doesn’t lead to a change of behavior. It doesn’t lead to transformation.    The knowledge that supposedly led to a conversion experience doesn’t have any effect on an individual. We have churches full of Gnostics that think just having knowledge is good enough. Knowledge doesn’t do anything, but people are convinced that Jesus is their friend and they’re going to heaven. This knowledge of Jesus brings a multiplication of grace and peace. That’s the only way to be growing in Christ. You gain knowledge by studying – that same way you gain knowledge about anything. You want to grow in Christ? Get to know Him. How do you get to know Him? Read His story, hang with people who want to know Him, who want to be like Christ. The time for talk is gone. Jesus is looking for servants who will actually follow Him. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”  Are you thinking, “Hey, that doesn’t apply to me, I’m not a priest.” The first phrase is the tip off. God is talking about His people being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. And He’s talking about a rejection of knowledge. Ignorance and rebellion lead to destruction.

We have everything we need. Peter tells us, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” These resources are available to us simply by knowing God. If you know God, then you have everything you need for a life that is pleasing to God. Peter’s call to godliness is rooted in and secured by God’s grace. Without grace, there would be no faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. Salvation comes by grace through faith. Confused? Don’t be. It is God that is the initiator of the relationship. He supplies what we need through His power. If He expects us to have it, He gives it to us. The life Peter refers to is eternal life and comes from the Greek word zoe. Godliness is linked to life because you can’t have godliness without having eternal life. You can’t have eternal life without the transforming power of Christ. Paul warned Timothy about this when he said there were men that held, “To a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 3:5) If you really have eternal life, it will change your life here on earth. The godliness we may display is not because of us, it’s because of God. The source of godliness is His divine power. When we start to think in terms of what we do, we tend to get high and mighty which leads to a judgmental attitude.

One caution in Peter’s message, there is a qualifier. We have everything from God’s divine power, “Through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Everything needed for eternal life is rooted in the knowledge of Christ. Salvation is not an emotional decision. Don’t get me wrong, there are emotions involved, but when salvation is purely emotional and those emotions fade, we’re often left dazed and confused. Maybe you wonder why there is no power in your life. Maybe you wonder why you can’t change, why you’re still the same person you’ve always been. I can tell you it’s not from a lack of God’s power. Eternal life stems first from a knowledge of who the Christ is.      John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” First knowledge, then conversion, then transformation. The transformation continues from conversion until death. Glory and excellence point to the same thing. Those that God saves are called by Christ as we understand His love and His forgiveness. This knowledge leads us to make a decision to follow Christ. The decision to follow Christ lead believers to be morally transformed by God’s inexplicable grace. This is one of Peter’s central themes and one of my defining phrases for Christianity. If you are a child of God, your life better reflect His glory. If you think you can live your life any way you feel like, you’re deceived and you’re hurting the cause of Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Those who truly are called by Christ have seen and experienced Christ’s glory and His excellence and will live a life of godliness. The life of the Christian still residing on earth will be lived as an example Christ’s transforming power.

Our Future (1 Peter, Part 3)

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw Peter’s encouragement to obey and we looked at our hope, this morning we’ll find out about our future regardless of our current circumstances.

1 Peter 1:3-9 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

As we look at our future, we have an inheritance that is imperishable. We have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ which means God has adopted us through Jesus. Christians are adopted children of God. Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” We are God’s heirs. Romans 8:17 “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Galatians 3:29 “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Titus 3:7 “So that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” An heir generally doesn’t do anything to deserve the inheritance; they receive an inheritance because of who they belong to. As Christians, we have an inheritance because we belong to God. The inheritance is given to us because God loves us. Our inheritance is imperishable. The inheritance is undefiled. It is pure, spotless, not held because of dishonesty. There are no legal battles to ensure we get our inheritance. It will not fade away. Unlike the laurel wreaths given to winners of the Olympic Games, our inheritance will not wilt or die. The crown of glory you will be given will not fade, it will not diminish, and it will not tarnish as things we inherit on earth do. Don’t be confused though, our inheritance is not given to us on this earth, our inheritance is reserved in heaven. There is no such thing as heaven on earth. If you Google “Heaven on Earth,” you’ll get over 15 million hits. I looked at the first several pages and few deal with spirituality. Some were for photography, some for spas, and some for finding spirituality. Some were dedicated to new age or eastern religions. There is nothing on this planet that can compare with the glory and splendor of heaven.

Peter goes on to say in verse 5, “Reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We are protected or kept by the power of God. The word picture painted here is that God protects us as though we were in a military installation.  It is a safe haven. The only reason we are protected is through the power and might of God. The conduit for God’s strength is our faith. As long as we exercise our faith in God, we are safe. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” It doesn’t take great faith for God to work, but it does take some. We must endure and persevere until the end to see the inheritance that is reserved for us. Our inheritance is prepared, it is ready, but it is in heaven. It will be revealed when Jesus comes again, when the last day arrives.

In v. 6, Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.” We must maintain our focus on the inheritance. We are to be exceedingly joyful over our secure place in heaven. No matter our current circumstances, we should maintain our eyes on the prize. Think of anything that you strive for. The work, effort, and struggle that you put into something pales in comparison to achieving the goal. Even though we all experience trials and difficulties and persecutions, the reward is worth the effort. It takes work to endure suffering. No one likes to suffer.  No one likes to have difficulties. It is part of our life here on earth and Peter is encouraging us to keep our focus on the inheritance that is ours. These trials last only for a short while.

Look at verse 7, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The proof of our faith is more precious than gold. Faith that is not tested is not faith at all. When faith is exercised, it grows; it becomes stronger. God is able to do what you ask of Him.  Nothing is too hard for God. When you step out on faith, you rely on the one thing that cannot fail, that will not fail, that will never let you down. When exercising faith, you rely on God’s power, not your own. We do have personal responsibility to pray, study, meditate on God’s word, etc., but when you trust God, you unleash a power that cannot be contained. The bottom line is that when you don’t exercise faith, you don’t trust God. Peter is saying that when the hard times come; when the trials come, and you are standing firm on the power of God, you, “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.” It is not the trial that produces the praise and glory of Christ; it is the way we respond to the trial.

Remember whom Peter is writing. He’s writing to strangers scattered abroad. They did not have the privilege of walking and talking with Christ as Peter had; yet they loved Him. They heard of His greatness, His character, His teachings, His sacrifice for sin, His resurrection, and His ascension. They heard all about Christ and even though they’ve never seen Him, they love Him. Christ has done more for us than any other one who ever lived. He died for us, to redeem our souls; he rose, and brought life and immortality to those that would believe. He lives to intercede for us in heaven. He is preparing mansions in heaven for us. Jesus is a Savior that ought to be loved. The love of Christ is so strong that people have been willing to die for His name’s sake. People willing to go to the ends of the earth to preach His name. Verse 8 goes on to say, “Though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is not visible to the human eye. Our belief in Him should be just as strong as if we’ve seen Him with our own eyes. In John 20:29 Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Some might say, “If I could just talk to Christ and see Him, I’d believe.” The reality is that even if this did happen, people still would not believe. Abraham told the rich man in Luke 16:31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” 2 Cor. 5:7 reminds us that we, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” Verse 9 concludes by saying, “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” The result of your faith is salvation. That is what we have to look forward to. This is our confidence.

We need faith to make it. That’s why we share testimonies of what God is doing in our lives. He is at work even though we cannot see Him. We must trust that His plans are for us to prosper. Do not let the circumstances of this life get you down. When we continue to walk by faith, our future is bright.

The Ideal Mom

MomFor ages and ages, we have attempted to define what an ideal mother is. The ideal mom is often defined by TV – some realistic, some not. From June Cleaver to Rosanne. From Laura Petrie to Lily Munster. From Murphy Brown to Marion Cunningham. Of course truth is stranger than fiction.

Moms today are different today than they were when I was growing up. Today’s mom is a chauffeur, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a cook, a house keeper and cleaning lady. She is a plumber, an auto mechanic, a carpenter. Mom is sometimes a soldier or sailor.

There is the challenge to be the ideal mom, but what does that look like? What are some characteristics that ideal women have? Even in the Bible, there is no perfect woman – the Proverbs 31 woman was excellent, not perfect. Let’s look at some biblical women and see if we can get some ideas.

If we want to find out about women, we need to look at where it all started. Look at Genesis 2:21-24. It must have been awesome to go to sleep alone and wake up with someone created just for you. Do you ever walk around the house and think, “Something’s missing.” I think that’s what Adam must have thought. All the animals had mates, had other creatures that looked like them, but not Adam. It must have been exciting for Adam when he woke up and found Eve. To be in complete harmony with one created just for you. They had direction from God on what to do. Be fruitful and multiply. Tend the garden. There was companionship. I think they were best friends. I think they enjoyed one another’s company. Do you find it interesting that Adam didn’t say, “Try again Lord, I don’t think I can love her.” Except for what Eve is famous for, little is said about her in Scripture.

Hannah was a prayer warrior. Check out 1 Samuel 1:12-20. Who doesn’t want a mom that is a prayer warrior? Hannah was a woman that prayed. Elkanah her husband liked her better than his other wife. Hannah had a rival named Penninah and Penninah didn’t like that fact. God had closed her womb and in those days, it was really bad for a woman if she couldn’t have children. Penninah took advantage of that by, “provok[ing] her bitterly to irritate her.” That went on for years and years. Being picked on can get old pretty quickly.

Life is filled with hills and valleys. We can react to circumstances or we can walk in the Spirit. Hannah chose to react by crying out to God. She wept bitterly over her circumstances and prayed. If the Lord would grant her a son, she vowed to place him in service to the Lord forever. How many of us react in ways that do not glorify the Lord? How many times to we use God as a last resort? When all else fails, we run to God. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

My friend Alicia wrote a song called Healing that referring to God she writes, “I don’t want to be your last resort, I want to be your very first choice, I am able to meet your needs, I can see your feeble body I can even feel your pain, and your healing lies in the power of my name.”

Moms need to be prayer warriors. God heard the prayers of Hannah. The child that God gave Hannah was Samuel, a prophet, priest, and judge over Israel. He was a man committed to doing what was right in God’s eyes.

One of my favorite women in scripture is Ruth. Remember the setting. Naomi and Elimelech had traveled from Bethlehem to Moab because there was a famine in the land. Ruth was from Moab that married Mahon, the son of Naomi. Everyone of the men had died and Naomi decides to go back to Bethlehem because she heard that the Lord had visited his people and the famine was over. So Naomi tells her two daughters in law to go back to their families. Orpah bails, “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16) 1 Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”Trustworthy comes from the Greek word pistos and is also translated faithful. Moms should be faithful. Faithful first to God with a deep personal relationship with the One and only true God. That’s a good principle to follow for all of us. We put too many things before God. When we are faithful to God, everything else falls in line with our relationship to God.

Deborah is another great woman of Scripture. She was a woman who had guts; she had courage. Deborah led in a time when the men of Israel were generally at a spiritual low.  Many a courageous Christian woman has led the way when the men wouldn’t do it. Look at Judges 4:1-15. Don’t miss the story of her courage. The sons of Israel did evil . . . again, so the Lord sold them into captivity in Canaan. Deborah told Barak to go fight against the Canaanites and Barak says, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” Keep in mind he has 10,000 men with him to fight, but he won’t go unless Deborah goes.   We need women of courage today. Women who will stand on the truth of God’s Word no matter what. Women who will allow themselves to be conformed to the image of Christ rather that to the image of the world. That takes courage.

You might be thinking, “But I don’t have any of those characteristics, I’m not who God wants me to be.” Look at Joshua 2:1. You have to wonder about Rahab. Rahab was a harlot. Harlot is not used much in English today, but the word means prostitute. Do you ever wonder why a woman like Rahab would be included in Scripture? Two of the spies sent to investigate the Promised Land were lodged by Rahab. James 2:25 explains why she is in the Word, “In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”Don’t get confused because in the next verse James says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Her faith in God is what led her to hide the spies. Even in the face of adversity in the form of the king. She knew who these men represented. You get a real sense of that in Joshua 2:9-13. Rahab was forgiven for her sin. That is exciting news for us. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past or who you were, all that matters is who you are now, who you belong to now. Rahab and her family were spared because they tied a scarlet cord in the window according to v. 18. Rahab and her family were spared from certain death when the walls of Jericho came down with a shout and according to Joshua 6:21, “They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.”

We’ve look at the first woman, the prayer warrior and the faithful woman. The courageous woman and the forgiven woman. Where do you fit into those character traits?