Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 4

Faithfulness

Faithfulness (being full of faith) is continually acting in faith, according to God's will and believing that God is sovereign and righteous in all circumstances, moving on our behalf for our good.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. ~Hebrews 11:1-3  

"...for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. " ~Jesus, Matthew 17:20  

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly." Jesus said to him, "Shall I come and heal him?"  The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.......... Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that moment. ~Matthew 8:5-10, 13  

In the Parable of the Talents, to the first servant (and second) who used his gift wisely: "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" ~Matthew 25:21

Great Is Thy Faithfulness - Chris Rice

Gentleness

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. ~Colossians   

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~Proverbs 15:1  

The message of the Gospel is usually not easy for unbelievers to receive, so our gentleness is more important than we realize. Our state of mind, our tone of voice, our approach all matter. To ease our minds, our goal is not to prove anything, but to merely have productive interaction and conversation that glorifies Jesus. It is God's work to change hearts and minds toward Him.  

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~Proverbs 16:24 

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. ~Philippians 4:5   

As believers we have the responsibility to lovingly and delicately correct other believers who are in error. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. ~2 Timothy 2:24-26

Your Gentleness - David Brymer

Self Control/Temperance

Self Control - temperance - discipline - disciple - being a purposeful follower in word and in deed.  

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:24-27   

I beseech you therefore, brethren (and sistren), by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~Romans 12:1-2

Give Me Self Control - Sovereign Grace Music

I Have Decided - Elevation Worship

The Fruit Producer

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. ~Ezekiel 36:26-27  

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem (your community), and in all Judea and Samaria (your nation), and to the ends of the earth. " ~Jesus, Acts 1:8

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in You. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. ~Romans 8:9-11

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. ~John 16:13 

And because you are sons (and daughters), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son (daughter), and if a son (daughter), then an heir of God through Christ. ~Galatians 4:6-7

Fire of Your Spirit - Sarah Liberman

Something New for the New Year! We’d Love to Hear From You!

Hello Everyone! We are happy to announce that our development team has created a beautiful new Comments section for our Speak Comfort family.
Please take a moment when you can to visit and enjoy some of our our readers’ comments, and if you like you can also share your thoughts with us by clicking on Reader Comments on the navigation bar, above.
Thanks so much, and we look forward to hearing from you!
Jeanette and Suzanne
“You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all” (2 Corinthians 3:2 ESV).

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 3

Patience/Longsuffering

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

Longsuffering is not only about waiting without being anxious, but also about mercy and forgiveness. God gives this to us and we are to give it to others.

So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm. ~Joel 2:13

My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ~James 1:2-4

For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. ~Psalm 30:5   

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:2-3

While I Wait - Lincoln Brewster

Kindness

The Hebrew word is Chesed (ha sed) - loving kindness. It basically means, selflessness in giving and serving.

Love your neighbor as yourself. ~Mark 12:31

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish,will give him a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~Jesus, Matthew 7:7-12

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who , being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--- even on a cross! ~Philippians 2:3-8

Kindness - Chris Tomlin

Goodness

Goodness is a true commitment to choosing right over wrong, good over evil. Every day we make many choices, most of them seemingly insignificant. Being good, is simply doing the right thing.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. ~Romans 12:9 

The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who trust in Him. ~Nahum 1:7  

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in its house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. " ~Jesus, Matthew 5:14-16 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:9-10

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~Romans 12:21 

Reminder: each of these - love, joy, peace, patience, etc...are elements of the Holy Spirit which work together as fruit, singular, not plural. None stand alone individually nor do they work without love.

Goodness Of God - Jenn Johnson

Excellent teaching series by Bill Cloud:

Bill Cloud: The World That Was

 

Your Vision for 2020 – Part Three: Clothed with Strength and Dignity.

How does the Proverbs 31 Woman inspire our vision for 2020 and the years ahead? Was she someone that we can identify with today? What is it about her that intrigues us, three thousand years after Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs? What kind of a woman was she?
If you’ve ever wondered whether God has designed a place for you to express your talents, then you need look no further than Proverbs 31 to encounter the woman whom God sees as more precious than jewels. She is an example of a woman who is active and fulfilled in every area of her life - in relationships, in the home, and in the marketplace. Her ministry flows from wisdom and kindness and her hands are open to the poor and needy. She is creative, strong and cheerful because she knows that she is blessed. Her reputation is dignified, and her work is productive and valued.
We may think that this paragon of virtue is too good to be true but remember what we studied in Part Two of our series. This laudable lady had also drunk deeply from the well of grief and remorse. She understood pain and suffering, but she knew the joy of redemption and God’s unmerited favor. In so many ways she is like us. And in many more ways, she is exactly what God designed us to be.
She seems so fulfilled! How can we be like her? What does it take for us to discover and manifest God’s specific design for each of us?
Beloveds, it’s not about who we were, or what we’ve done, or how hard we are willing to work. Bathsheba didn’t go from the pit to the palace and from pity to praise overnight. And she didn’t become the Proverbs 31 Woman on her own steam.
She underwent a process of maturity from being the woman who cheated on her husband Uriah, which resulted in his being murdered, to being the woman whom Solomon described as an excellent wife, who does her husband David good and not harm, all the days of her life (v. 10-12). This wasn’t due to a simple change of location or spouse, but of a fundamental metamorphosis of character.
A transformative third party had to step in to effect this change. King David and Queen Bathsheba had to surrender to a higher authority, and place someone who was without sin on the throne of their hearts to govern them.
Of course, you already know that I am talking about our Lord Jesus, and that for us to be fulfilled in any way at all, we must first make him and him alone the Lord of our lives.
I’m also talking about something in addition to that. When we look at the Proverbs 31 Woman as an example of how much harder we should be working, and of how far short we always seem to fall no matter how much we are willing to do – then we are looking at her through veiled eyes.
She is not an example of what we should be doing. She is an example of what we could be receiving from God, if only we would settle down and let him manifest the unique blueprint he’s knit together in each one of us.
God made a way for Bathsheba to become the Proverbs 31 Woman. He made a way for David to become the husband and the king whose wisdom was known at the gates and who sat in authority among the elders of the land (Proverbs 31:23). And God wants to open that same way for us, not just for this year, but for all our years into eternity.
In Part One of this series we explained how God defined a plan for each one of us from before the creation of the world. God designed each of us to express the plan he knitted together in us, so that our good works would give him glory. God desires for his glory to shine into the world through his people, like a light on a hill.
King David wrote in Psalm 37:3-5, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (ESV).
The difference between Bathsheba and the Proverbs 31 Woman that she became is that Bathsheba followed the desires – or we could say, the lusts – of her “natural” or earthly heart, while the redeemed and sanctified Proverbs 31 Woman followed the desires of God’s heart for her. When we trust in the Lord, he gives us, not the lustful desires of our earthly hearts, but he aligns our hearts with his heart, so that our desires and God’s desires are a match. When the desires of our hearts are aligned with the desires of God’s heart, then the work that we do in the world is fulfilling for us and brings him glory. God makes a way for us through the alignment of our hearts with his heart and our desires with his desires.
God created the first man and woman in his image - to be in relationship with himself, to demonstrate his character, and to reflect his glory. The image of God in mankind was tainted by the fall, but God’s image in us was restored through our new birth in Jesus Christ.
As image-bearers, we are designed to express God’s nature through what he has fitted together in us as our giftings – the talents and abilities that God built into us from before the beginning of the world. God designed the eye to see, the ear to hear, the heart to pump blood, the feet to travel, the skin to defend us from outside invaders. Each piece of our bodies has its perfect part to play, designed to support the function of the whole.
We are the Body of Christ on earth, and each of us has been endowed by God with certain abilities. We have each been provided with the talents necessary to glorify our Creator, and to live out our own unique callings.
Knowing what God’s call is for our lives is not something that we have to struggle to figure out. When we examine our examples in Proverbs 31, we see that the man and woman described there are going about their day-to-day lives, doing all the things that are set before them to do, without worrying or complaining. The work that they do is fulfilling, whether it is in the home, the marketplace, or in service, because they are fully utilizing the gifts and talents that God placed in them. God placed unique gifts and talents in each of us so that by expressing them, we would give him glory and enjoy life more abundantly (John 10:10).
How does Solomon’s description of the Proverbs 31 Woman and her family present us with an example of the desires of God’s heart for us? Here are some examples:
Have you always dreamed of becoming a chef? See Proverbs 31:14-15, “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens” (ESV).
Do you work in farming or real estate? See Proverbs 31:16, “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”
Are you interested in promoting good health and wellness (or are you an athlete)? See Proverbs 31:17, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.”
Are you skilled at working with your hands? See Proverbs 31:13,19, “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands…She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.”
Are you involved in ministry? See Proverbs 31:20, “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
Fancy a career in meteorology (or science)? See Proverbs 31:21, “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household is clothed in scarlet [or in double-thickness].”
Are you interested in design? See Proverbs 31:22, “She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.”
Do you dream of running a business? See Proverbs 31:24, “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.”
Do you find joy in teaching? See Proverbs 31:26, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
Are you a homemaker? See Proverbs 31:27, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
Are you raising wonderful children? See Proverbs 31:28, “Her children rise up and call her blessed…”
Are you a newlywed, or celebrating a golden anniversary? “…her husband also, and he praises her.”
Can you envision a career in law or politics? King David is our example in Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.”
Do you love composing and performing music? David is our example again! For inspiration, spend some time in the Book of Psalms!
And finally, if you feel called to work in writing and social media (like we do here at Speak Comfort!), take note of Proverbs 31:18, “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable, Her lamp does not go out at night.” (lol!)
As you can see, whatever the desires of our hearts, God’s plan has got us covered! The beauty of this is that we don’t have to excel at everything, but God has a blessing and an anointing for the unique gifts and talents that he intends for us to use. And we don’t have to wrack our brains to figure out what God’s call for us is about. All we must do is stop and recognize where our talents are and what brings us the most joy.
As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).
As our series continues, we will look at how God gives us provision, equipping, and anointing for the work he created us to do.
Please stay tuned!

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 2

The Good Fruit Of The Holy Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucufied the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:22-25

This is great news, Beloved Ones!!!

Love

Notice that love is at the top of the list because it is the embodiment of all of these elements working together. Love is not a mere feeling, it takes decision as well as action. The Love Chapter truly says it all.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails..........

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13 - The Love Chapter

Your Love Never Fails - Jesus Culture

Joy

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.....down in my heart to stay!!! Ah, precious memories of Bible school days with cookies and juice.

Joy is about celebrating Who God Is. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise! ~Psalm 47:5-7

Joy is contagious. For the Jews, it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear (Godly fear) of the Jews had seized them. ~Esther 8:16-1

Joy transcends circumstances. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, ~James 1:2

Joy - For King & Country

Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John 14:27

...and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. ~Ephesians 6:15  ...a vital element of the armor of God.

We live in a world full of trouble, Jesus told us to expect it. We are not here in this life in this time to blend in with the world or to get along quietly. The Gospel of Peace is about God's peace which is in bold opposition to worldly peace. Worldly peace is a false peace which proclaims that everyone has their own personal way to know God and get to heaven and that Jesus is merely one of them. Jesus contradicts this notion as He states, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." ~John 14:6

The Gospel of Peace is for joyful proclamation! So we are to be ready and unafraid, secure and complete in the Lord, content in our hearts as we face a variety of obstacle and circumstances, living truth, and speaking truth in love so that others may have it also. The Hebrew word is Shalom.

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ~Jesus, John 16:33

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

Shabbat Shalom - Joshua Aaron

If you have not seen this beautiful series, The Chosen, by filmmaker Dallas Jenkins, it is a must see:

The Chosen - series - free app for phone

Christian Post Review of The Chosen

 

Bad Fruit, Good Fruit – Part 1

What should be the fruit of a follower of Christ? Should we stand out in the world or should we blend in? A better question might be, "should unbelievers be able to see the evidence of whom be belong to?" The enemy has a goal to create gray areas of confusion, especially within the church and to give the world authority over what happens there. What happens if your church begins to favor worldliness over God's Word or when your church/denomination divides over cultural issues?

But you (believer) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who were once not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Before we discuss the good fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit, we need to take a look at the bad fruit of worldliness to help us in wisdom and discernment as the gray areas increase.

"Beware of false prophets (and false believers), who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." ~Jesus, Matthew 7:14-20

Worldly Works Of The Flesh

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:

adultry, fornication (this includes homosexuality - 1 Corinthians 6:9) - any sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

uncleanness - morally or spiritually impure, continually ignoring the call of the Holy Spirit

lewdness - anything such as foul language, music, pornographic images, etc. that promotes sexual promiscuity

idolatry - includes any obsession that consumes us and interferes with our worship of the One true God, Who Is Yahweh, Who sent His One and Only Son, Yeshua/Jesus to save us from sin. He is not Allah, Buddha, Hari Krishna, Yoda, popular TV New Age Guru, nor is He a god who can be molded together with popular Bible verses while throwing out the rest of scripture that makes one feel uncomfortable.

sorcery - witchcraft and occult practices, including mind manipulation, ouija boards, tarot cards, communication with the dead, human sacrifice (including abortion), etc.

hatred - Folks, speaking even harsh truth (in love) and presenting scripture and facts is not hatred. Hatred is when one feels such contempt for another person that one or more is/are willing to do anything to bring their downfall including lying, cheating, stealing, etc.

contentions - continuous quarreling about trivial issues

jealousies - involves at least three people, one person being jealous over another person's relationship with a third person or people

envy - between two people, one envious of the other one's blessings

outbursts of wrath - out of control anger, harsh words, throwing objects, slamming doors, etc.

selfish ambitions - putting one's personal well being above others

dissensions - not being able to settle arguments by agreeing to disagree which eventually leads to incivility

heresies - false teaching and belief that clearly contradict scripture

murders - purposely causing the death of an innocent person or people including the unborn. It is Biblical as well as  (US) constitutional that a person, either perpetrator or victim, is innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt is a just court of law.

drunkenness - purposeful and constant abuse of alhohol and drugs, using as a means to escape unpleasant circumstances

revelries - boisterous partying with no regard for decency and civility

and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in times past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~Galatians 5:19-21

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles (unbelievers), that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. ~1 Peter 2:11-12

It is important to note the difference between temporarily falling into sin, and continuous practice and promotion of sin, calling it good and acceptable. Praise God for His unending mercy and grace in allowing repentance, which means coming into full agreement with God and His ways and allowing the Holy Spirit to remove the sin in our hearts which bears bad fruit to get us back on the right track.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. ~1 John 1:8-10

Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ~James 1:22

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My Words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's Who sent Me. ~John 14:23-24

Fruit has always been an issue. Nothing new under the sun here:

Did America Have A Christian Founding? Yes And No.

How bad can evil progress? Chaurisse is a survivor of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Please take some time to listen to her testimony. And pray for the children who suffer in this daily, that they would be set free and justice take place. Awareness is the first step in the help they need.

Programmed By Freemasons: You Won't Believe What She Survived

Your Vision for 2020 – Part Two: The Story of the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Allow me to introduce you to the most intimidating gal in scripture – the Proverbs 31 Woman! She is so capable, let’s face it ladies, we just can’t compete! Have you ever wondered, “Who was this amazing woman?”
To find her, we must first have a look at the author of this chapter of the book of Proverbs. Verse 31:1 states that “these are the words of King Lemuel.” In the Hebrew, Lemuel means “belonging to God,” and many scholars are convinced that it refers not to some unknown king buried in the dust of history, but to King Solomon himself. Verse 1 goes on to say that chapter 31 is based on advice that the king’s mother taught him. If all these scholarly minds are correct, and I believe they are, then the author of the 31st chapter of Proverbs was King Solomon, and the inspiration for this final chapter of the book was his mother.
Who, you may ask, was King Solomon’s mother? It was Bathsheba, widow of Uriah, wife of King David, and ancestress of Jesus as listed in Matthew 1:6.
Obviously, King Solomon loved his mother, and she was a wise woman. But there’s much more to the story than that! In case you hadn’t heard, when it came to the ladies, King David had a roving eye. One balmy day, rather than accompany his troops to battle, David decided to take the day off from waging war with the philistines, stay home, and do a little sunbathing on his balcony. But oops! On that very day Bathsheba decided that since all the mighty men – including her husband, Uriah - were away from the palace being heroic, she’d enjoy a leisurely wash-up on her roof. After all, it was such lovely spring weather, and all the men were out of town.
You can read the full story in 2 Samuel 11 and 12, but to sum it up, tragic, beautiful Bathsheba was not alone on her rooftop as she thought. The moment King David clapped eyes on Bathsheba in her tub, he threw caution, good sense and morality to the wind and sent for her immediately. The result of their tryst was that Bathsheba became pregnant, David had her husband murdered by trickery, and the infant son of their illicit union died, even though David fasted and prayed for his life. Ultimately David and Bathsheba were legally married, and their youngest son Solomon was chosen by God to inherit David’s throne and build the first Temple in Jerusalem (See 1 Kings 1-11).
The prophet wrote in 2 Samuel that “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (11:26-27 ESV). Because of David’s actions, and in part her own, Bathsheba suffered through the stigma of infidelity, the murder of her husband, and the loss of her child.
A truth that leaps out at us as we study the Bible is that none of the men and women in scripture – except Jesus - was perfect. David and Bathsheba were no exception. In fact, if you listen to enough sermons about King David, you’ll find that two of the defining characters in his life story were the giant Goliath and the gorgeous Bathsheba, who represented both his greatest victory and his greatest defeat.
But as Paul reminds us, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).
 The Proverbs 31 Woman stands for us as a witness and a testimony of God’s uplifting power, even in the presence of unbearable sin and suffering. Bathsheba could have allowed the unfair things that happened to her and the part she played in causing her own heartbreak to destroy her. But instead Solomon’s description of his mother demonstrates that the Proverbs 31 Woman did not need to fear her future, or her past, because by the grace of God she had been redeemed and restored.
Now that we know a little more of her story, let’s read King Solomon’s depiction of the woman who was “far more precious than gold or jewels” (31:10):
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:11-31 ESV)
The picture of the Proverbs 31 Woman is a portrait of redemption. If we don’t know that about her we will miss the point, and think that all she was is a woman who worked really, really hard and was good at everything. But Beloveds, the Proverbs 31 Woman wasn’t blessed because she worked hard. She threw herself into every aspect of her life joyfully, because even though she had participated in terrible sins, by the goodness of God she was transformed.
Jesus said of the woman who bathed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47 ESV).
Both David and Bathsheba paid a hard price for their mistakes. And their stories are interwoven with ours. When we are forgiven much, by the grace of God, we love much. When we receive restoration from the Lord, he equips us to do the work that he originally designed us to do.
As this series continues, we will explore how we can find inspiration in the husband and wife that Solomon introduced us to in Proverbs 31, and apply their joyful and productive vision to our own lives in the years to come.
Much love, God bless and please stay tuned!

Your Vision for 2020 – Part One.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote that the mystery of Christ was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, that it was given to him to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and to “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things…” (Ephesians 3:1-9 ESV).
God has a plan that was begun in the garden with Adam and Eve, given to his people Israel, realized in Jesus Christ, and made available to all who believe in him and receive salvation by his grace. God’s plan didn’t end with the first century church. It continues to this day, and we are a part of it. Paul went on to state that the assignment given to him by the Holy Spirit was to “…bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:9-10 ESV). As the Body of Christ on earth, we are the continuation of the first century church and we play a role in the revelation of God’s plan.
Paul said, “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:11-12 ESV). It is God’s eternal plan that through Jesus we will have access to our Father in heaven and all his promises, approaching God with boldness and confidence in his unfailing love for us.
This is how The Message translation paraphrases Paul’s prayer for the church (and that is us!) in Ephesians 3:14-21, “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”
Beloved Friends, God did not intend for us to sit on the sidelines. He especially didn’t intend for us to sit on the sidelines and worry! That was not his plan! His plan was and is and always will be that his children operate in a way that demonstrates his love and reveals his glory (see Ephesians 4:1-3). Jesus said “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b ESV).
You may be wondering how you could possibly fit in to God’s plan, and that even if we were meant to be a part of his plan, how are we supposed to know what to do about it! (Can I get a witness?) Thankfully, God has provided us with the perfect user’s manual, and we can find the answer to these questions in the Bible!
Before we get going with this, please be aware that I am not cherry-picking verses to prove a point. When we study the passages we’ll be referencing, we’ll see how the whole pattern fits together. The Bible is not a collection of single verses that are made to stand alone. It is the expression, through his Holy Spirit, of our Father’s will for his creation manifested through his Son, Jesus Christ, and his Church. Reading scripture is like putting puzzle pieces together and all the pieces are designed to fit together perfectly to reveal the Big Picture.
Because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we are also pieces of God’s plan. And just like putting together a puzzle, it takes all the pieces fitted together to make the picture complete.
So, in this series, we will explore what the Bible says about how we fit into God’s plan and from that, how we can each develop our vision for the year ahead.
Let’s begin by understanding who we are in Christ. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives us seven “in him” statements:
  1. In Christ we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3).
  2. In him we were chosen before the creation of the world to be made holy and blameless (1:4).
  3. In him we were predestined for adoption as sons and daughters (1:5-6).
  4. In him we have redemption and forgiveness through his Blood, according to the riches of his grace (1:7-8).
  5. In him all things in heaven and earth will be united (1:9-10).
  6. In him we have obtained an inheritance, according to the purpose of his will (1:11-12).
  7. In him we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire full possession of it (1:13-14).
 As we can see, God had a plan for us from before the beginning of the world. That is what is meant by us being “predestined”. Not that God created us to be marionettes who have no will to act on our own, but that each of us have been included in God’s plan from the beginning. In the book of Revelation (which describes the fulfillment of God’s plan on earth), John speaks about those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world; and in the same verse, he describes the Lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the world. This is stated slightly differently in various translations.
For example, the King James Version tells us about the difference between saints whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and those people who have not accepted salvation, as those “…whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8b). Which helps us see that God had a plan for our salvation in Jesus (see John 1:29-51), even before he laid the foundation for creation itself.
The same verse in the English Standard Version reads, “…everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” This translation gives us a picture of our names having been written in the Lamb’s book of life from before the beginning of the world.
This may seem complicated, but simply put, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit already had a plan in place for our salvation before the creation of the world, and God already knew each of our names and the part that he would design us to play in his plan.
Every good carpenter knows that if he or she wants to build a house that will stand the test of time and the elements, they must begin with a plan, drawn by an architect. Before the first piece of wood is cut or the first nail is struck, the architect has already envisioned what the finished house will look like, who will inhabit it, and how it will best serve its purpose and function. Before building begins, the architect and the contractor have already chosen the people who will pour the foundation, lay the floor, build the frame, install the plumbing and wiring, and place the roof. The designer knows who will lay the carpet, paint the walls and install the cabinets. The names of the contractors and subcontractors are already written in their contracts. Once all this has been decided, the actual building project begins, and everyone involved does the work they are assigned to do within the context of what takes place at the building site. Each one, according to their talent and expertise, deals with events as they come up on the ground.
In 2 Samuel 7:27, we read that God promised King David that he would build him a house. That house is the Davidic dynasty, and Jesus is the promised King who sits on the throne of his father, David, forever (2 Samuel 7:16; Matthew 1:1). We are built into that house. Peter wrote that “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5a ESV). God did not decide to build his house without a plan.
King David understood it this way:
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV).
In Part Two of our series, we will explore how God knits into us specific talents and abilities, and gives us the desires of our hearts, as a part of our architectural design for the fulfillment of his plan in each of our lives.
Much love, God bless and please stay tuned!

Building A House: Journal – Part 10

Psalm 16

A Michtam of David. Keep me safe. O God, for in You I have found shelter. i said to Adonai: "You are my Lord-- I have no good apart from You." As for the kedoshim (saints) who are in the land, they are noble-- in them is all my delight. verses 1-3

In spite of the chaos in the world right now, I believe 2020 is going to be a good year. Our hope remains in the Lord always. I pray that your year will be filled with blessings and prosperity.

Here we are preparing to pour the next and last level of concrete. On and off, we have had some perfect weather: cool and dry. Hallelu Yah!!!

As for those who run after another god, may their sorrows multiply. I will not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor lift up their names with my lips.

Adonai is my portion and my cup. You cast my lot. verses 4-5

My boundary lines fall in pleasant places-- surely my heritage is beautiful. I will bless Adonai who counsels me. Even at night my heart instructs me. verses 6-7

I have set Adonai always before me. Since He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. So my heart is glad and my soul rejoices. My body also rests secure. verses 8-9

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol nor let Your faithful one see the pit. You make known to me the path of life. Abundance of joys are in Your presence, eternal pleasures at Your right hand. verses 10-11

Psalm Project by Good Dog and Buttercup

Pray for Australia.

Beloved Friends, if you have seen the images and heard the news reports about the incomprehensible devastation and loss of life, animals, homes and habitat that are coming out of Australia - and if your hearts are breaking for all the suffering there as ours are - we ask that you please take as many moments as you can over the coming days to join with us in prayer for that beautiful continent and all her inhabitants. 
Sometimes, we can feel helpless when we see tragedy happening in a place that is so far removed from most of our daily lives, and we may feel that there is nothing that we can do to help. But the truth is that the most immediate, important, and effective action that we can take is to consistently hold those who are suffering up to God in prayer.
If you've ever called on friends and family in a time of crisis and felt their prayers strengthening and comforting you in the middle of a storm of circumstances that were out of your control, then you know how important it is for prayer warriors to intervene in a time of  catastrophe. For Australia, this is one of those times.
So Beloveds, let's pray. Let's pray for those who have lost loved ones. Let's pray for those who have lost their homes. Let's pray for all the firefighters, first-responders and leaders. Let's pray for all those whose homes and businesses are in danger.  Let's pray for all the animals that have nowhere to run. Let's pray for rain to put out the fires and for relief from the heat. Let's pray for comfort, for safety, for healing, for salvation, for strength. Let's pray for those who are sending help from all over the world. Whatever it is that God puts on your hearts to pray, let's pray for God's will to prevail on earth as it does in heaven. Let's pray and keep on praying until we see God move for Australia and all of her people.
As we pray, remember that none of us is praying alone, but through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we are one body in Christ coming together in Jesus' name, and our Father in heaven is listening.
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV).