January 5 / Proverbs 5 / Matthew 5

salt of earth2

Proverbs 5:23

They die for lack of discipline, and because of their great folly they are lost.

Freedom is not the absence of rules, but rather the presence of discipline.

And discipline involves doing what you need to do even when you don’t feel like it.

Responding affirmatively to life’s call for regular rhythms brings peace, much more than doing whatever you feel like doing all the time. Ask anyone. When do you feel your best? Is it when you are going through each day with no real plan or direction? Or is it when you are pursuing something through daily discipline, be it working out, eating well, building or creating something of any significance?

What are your current rhythms of life? What do you do every day? Every week? What is the benefit?

Matthew 5:3-12

The Beatitudes

The beatitudes are not necessarily ways of life we are to strive for. Jesus here is proclaiming who the Kingdom of God is available to and who it is for. He was telling those listening to Him that there is hope for all of them according to God. Perhaps a better and more accurate translation for the popular word “Blessed” here would be “God’s gift of salvation is given to those who…” Try plugging that in and see what happens. And don’t worry about going out today to try to get persecuted so you can enter the Kingdom. Just know it is available for you even in all these states mentioned.

Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth.”

It is those who follow Jesus with all their heart who give flavor to this life. We show the world that there is meaning to our existence, there is purpose. We model that our loving Creator desires a relationship with us, to walk through all of life with us, to be acknowledged every moment because He is for us! This is what being the salt of the earth means to me.

What do you show those around you about this life? Do people see that life is worth living by being around you? Do they see hope? Joy? Again, this is not something we strive for, but rather we live from inside out. We fuel up at YHWH’s filling station and live from our center.

January 4 / Proverbs 4 / Matthew 4

guard your heart

Proverbs 4:1-9

Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you.

If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you.

Embrace wisdom, and wisdom will embrace you. Pursue a life of goodness, and the goodness of life will be yours to enjoy.

Proverbs 4:23

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

This is our center [spoken of profoundly in Rise of the Guardians] from which our life flows. Therefore it is what God really looks at. This is what Scripture tells us. This is what Jesus Himself tells us. Guard this center, feed this center with YHWH, and you will live from the inside out. You will spend little to no energy on externals for they will be automatically determined by your center flow. You’ll cease striving to look good to people because you will just look however your center dictates, and you will be at peace with that, no matter what others may think, say or even do about it.

Matthew 4:1-11

“The Bible says,” replied Jesus, “that it takes more than bread to keep you alive. You actually live on every word that comes out of God’s mouth.” [KNT]

The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.

You have testing and you have temptation.

There is a difference.

God tests, intending to strengthen the believer’s moral character, and the devil tempts, intending to destroy that selfsame character. God prunes us to to make us more fit, but the devil is out to steal, kill, and destroy. (Paradoxically, the same set of circumstances can be taken as either a test or temptation, depending on your response. Jesus responds rightly–relying on Scripture.)

Jesus faced the very real temptations to misuse His God-given power in various selfish and self-protective ways. It is the same for all of us. We have all been gifted in some unique manner for God’s kingdom, to do our purposeful part in “making” it a larger and larger reality here on earth now. But often times we misuse or even neglect our gifts. We use them for ourselves only, for some sort of personal, selfish gain. Or we sleepwalk through life not recognizing our potential to change the world for the better, for God.

What has God given you for the world? It could be anything. Maybe you’re great at puzzles, and you could do puzzles with dying people to bring the joy of Christ to them in their final hours. I don’t know. But you have something. This I do know.

But if Jesus had turned stones into bread, thrown himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, or worshipped the devil, in order to feed himself, prove himself to the crowds, or gain his kingdom with dying for it, he would no longer have been the obedient Son of God worthy of emulation. Jesus is portrayed here as not taking shortcuts to glory, but rather following the hard and long path of obedience, living by God’s word, and resisting temptation by relying on that word. Notice that the devil can cite Scripture, but only Jesus fleshes it out and obeys it. Wisdom amounts not just to knowing the truth, but obeying it.

-from The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible

If you’re relying on anything but God’s live and active word to fight temptation, then you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight. No, you’re bringing a paperclip to a nuclear bomb fight. Let me know how that goes for you.

If you’re wondering about the use of any Scripture, by anyone, go to Jesus about it. Only He has interpreted Scripture as God intended. The Holy Spirit of Jesus will teach you everything you need to know.

January 3 / Proverbs 3 / Matthew 3

tatoo

Proverbs 3:7

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Keep it simple. Keep it consistent.

Proverbs 3:21-26

do not let these escape from your sight…the Lord will be your confidence

The Lord must be our confidence, for only in Him does true power dwell. So how do we do this? By not letting “these” escape from our sight. What are “these”? His wisdom, His prudence, His ways. We do not let them escape our sight by intentionally keeping them before us at all times.

If you don’t program your mind, the world will gladly do it for you. The volume of this world is  turned up very, very loud (to eleven!). All the more reason we must purposefully keep God and His commands right in front of our eyes, mostly through time spent with Him. Maybe we have Scriptures and prayers posted in our car. A tattoo. Whatever it takes to keep the Lord before you always, to foster a long obedience in the same direction. Oh the power of habit. Form good habits and become their slave.

I keep the Lord before me always. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. -Psalm 16:8

Matthew 3:8

“You’d better prove your repentance by bearing the right sort of fruit!” -John the Baptizer

Repentance is a changing of the way one thinks and therefore a changing of the way one lives. It is not merely believing the correct doctrine or a keeping of the proper rules, though it may include that.

It is internal and done for God by allowing Him to work in our hearts through surrender to Him. This surrender is done by laying ourselves bare to Him through our seeking of Him.

If you are truly seeking God from the sincerity of your heart, it will show in the way you think and the life you live. Again, this is not simply external. There is no sacred checklist to keep to see if you’re there. It is known only to you and to God.

He wants to crush your old destructive habits of thought. Do you believe this? Do you believe He can? I promise you He will, but only if you allow it. That is the free will He has granted us. Only if you honestly lay it out before Him will He transform you. And this, over much time typically, though some have experienced it acutely. He works in His wisdom and in His timing. Trust the process.

Start by just opening yourself up to the possibility that He can and will transform your mind to a new place of freedom from old twisted habits of thought and action. For transformation begins with doubt–doubt that your old thoughts are true. Just to simply doubt the world’s ways or your selfish habits as being life-giving can begin to topple false narratives and start life for you anew and free. “Maybe castigating, upbraiding, and berating myself constantly is not the way to true happiness and freedom in Christ…hmmm…”

January 2 / Proverbs 2 / Matthew 2

flight-to-egypt

Proverbs 2:1-5

My child, listen to what I say, and remember what I command you. Listen carefully to wisdom; set your mind on understanding. Cry out for wisdom and beg for understanding. Search for it like silver, and hunt for it like hidden treasure. Then you will understand respect for the LORD, and you will find that you know God.

If you truly seek, you will surely find.

To pursue wisdom/insight/understanding results in great reward-gaining the knowledge of God! Is this not worth pursuing? Is this treasure not of a great enough value that it is worth digging and digging and digging for? And remember, whatever something costs us, that’s what it is worth to us.

God and His wisdom are to be eagerly sought after. I believe God desires us to seek hard after Him. Not only is He worth it, but it shows we are serious. It does something to rewire our brains when we devote so much of our energy to the seeking of God. Is this is why He asks this of us? Because He loves us so much and only wants what is good for us…?

Far from taking us away from other things we should be doing, it is the one thing we should be doing at the expense of all others! Not out of a checklist mentality, but because it is designed to give us life, and life abundantly. It is quite literally what we are hard-wired for, to love our loving Creator who designed us to function optimally when loving Him with all our heart.

Matthew 2:13-18

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah…

Your ways are not our ways, O Lord almighty.

The mind of God is incomprehensible to us finite beings. It is good to surrender to this in faith to Him who is infinitely good and who knows what He is doing. It is true that the closer we get to Him, the more we understand, yet there are passages like these that I must just bow to.

I’m not sure why God had Mary & Joseph flee to Egypt instead of just stopping Herod from pursuing them. Yes, it was to fulfill Scripture, but why set it up that way in the first place?  And the horrific killing of all these young boys…I don’t get it, but who am I to ask why? [see Job]

Joseph trusted God wholly when He spoke to him via these dream messages. There’s so much I don’t understand, so all the more important it is to act on what I do know, and that is the fact that God is infinitely good and He knows what He’s doing. I am not infinitely good and ultimately don’t know everything He is doing. So I trust Him, for in the end, all will be well.

January 1 / Proverbs 1 / Matthew 1

IMMANUEL

Proverbs 1:2-7

Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.

Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.

These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.

“The strong motif throughout Proverbs is that God’s ways are superior to ours. Therefore, we must be in close relationship to God in order to live the virtuous life. Moreover, Proverbs insists the virtuous life is practical and will make us more contented and better off in many ways.”  -From The Ronovare Spiritual Formation Bible

I really like this definition of wisdom I found in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary:

The ability-divinely bestowed and acquired through a lifelong process-that enables one in various situations to make and carry out decisions pleasing to God and ultimately socially and personally beneficial.

Proverbs 1:20-33

Come and listen to my counsel.

I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.

There is a good and right way to live that God, as the founder of life, has set up. And this way of life is not only available to all who would seek after it, but it also calls out to us. We are without excuse and unable to claim ignorance. Especially in this information age we live in. It is not more information we need, but to act on what we know.

And act we must, for as this passage tells us, there may come that time when it is too late to rectify the damage we’ve done in some real sense. Yes, God can and does redeem our ridiculosity all the time. But let’s not be naive to the fact that we are given the freedom to choose damage and a lot of it.

For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them… [v 32]

Matthew 1:23

…they shall give Him the name Immanuel- which, in translation, means “God with us.”

This, it seems to me, shows us the greatest gift God gives us- His divine, manifest Presence. All we must do is acknowledge what is already there.

It doesn’t seem to matter what you’re going through as long as you are going through it with the one you most love and who most loves you. We can get through anything together, especially when that person is our perfect, loving Maker.

This is why we remind each other of who is with us, and what He is like. We can not only make it through anything, but come out of it strengthened in Him and for His glory. If we but have eyes to see and ears to hear!