The Apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This implies that there is an ongoing process of evaluation and renewal. This starts when I give up my way of doing things (v. 1), and then the remainder of that 12th chapter is a checklist of changes in behavior that come about because of the renewing of our minds.
Holy Spirit, I need Your honest evaluation. Show me my deficits, and then help me hear Your loving voice that guides me in the changes I need to make. I want Jesus to be seen in my life. Amen!
[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]
Get wisdom! Get understanding! … Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding (Proverbs 4:5, 7).
Wisdom and understanding from God’s Word are worth the getting! They bring meaning to life along with:
In Tactics Greg Koukl gives Christians more how than what/why in defending the Biblical faith. It is an outstanding read that I recommend to all Christians (young or old). You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are just a few of the quotes I highlighted in this empowering book.
“First, Christ’s ambassadors need the basic knowledge necessary for the task. They must know the central message of God’s kingdom and something about how to respond to the obstacles they’ll encounter on their diplomatic mission. … However, it is not enough for followers of Jesus to have an accurately informed mind. Our knowledge must be tempered with the kind of wisdom that makes our message clear and persuasive. This requires the tools of a diplomat, not the weapons of a warrior, tactical skill rather than brute force. Finally, our character can make or break our mission. Knowledge and wisdom are packaged in a person, so to speak. If that person does not embody the virtues of the kingdom he serves, he will undermine his message and handicap his efforts.”
“The tactical approach requires as much careful listening as thoughtful response.”
“It is not the Christian life to wound, embarrass, or play one-upmanship with colleagues, friends, or even opponents, but it’s a common vice that anyone can easily fall into.” — Hugh Hewitt
“Always make it a goal to keep your conversations cordial. Sometimes that will not be possible. If a principled, charitable expression of your ideas makes someone mad, there’s little you can do about it. Jesus’ teaching made some people furious. Just make sure it’s your ideas that offend and not you, that your beliefs cause the dispute and not your behavior.”
“The ability to argue well is vital for clear thinking. That’s why arguments are good things. Arguing is a virtue because it helps us determine what is true and discard what is false. … Paul warns against wrangling about words and quarreling about foolish speculations (2 Timothy 2:14, 23). But he also commands us to be diligent workmen, handling the word of truth accurately (2 Timothy 2:15). And, because some disputes are vitally important, Paul solemnly charges us to reprove, rebuke, and exhort when necessary (2 Timothy 4:112). This cannot be done without some confrontation, but disagreement need not threaten genuine unity.”
“If you want skeptics to believe in the Bible, don’t get into a tug-of-war with them about inspiration. Instead, invite them to listen—to engage Jesus’ words firsthand—then let the Spirit do the heavy lifting for you.”
“You have to know why Jesus is the only way before it is helpful to tell people that He is the only way.”
“There are three specific things you can do to ‘ready’ yourself to respond. You can anticipate beforehand what might come up. You can reflect afterward on what took place. And in both cases you can practice the responses you think of during these reflective moments so you will be prepared for the next opportunity.”
“Knowing when to step back requires the ability to separate the hogs and the dogs from the lost sheep looking for a shepherd. But how do you know when someone has crossed the line? When do we have an obligation to speak, and when should we save our pearls for another time? Part of the answer can be found in Jesus’ next words in Matthew 7:6: ‘…lest they trample [the pearls] under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.’ Be generous with the truth except with someone who shows utter contempt for the precious gift being offered him. He will simply trample it in the mud and then viciously turn on you. … There is an exception to this principle, however. I have learned from my radio show that sometimes my real audience is not the person I’m talking to, but the people who are listening in, eavesdropping on the conversation. … Lee Strobel calls this ‘ricochet evangelism.’”
“When I face an aggressive challenger, I often give him the last word. Not only is this gracious, it’s also powerful, conveying a deep sense of confidence in one’s own view. Instead of fighting for the final say-so, give it away. Make your concluding point clearly and succinctly, and then say, “I’ll let you have the last word.” But don’t break this promise. Grant him his parting shot, and then let it rest.”
“Know the truth. Know your Bible well enough to give an accurate answer. Tactics are not a substitute for knowledge. Cleverness without truth is manipulation.”
“Culture is most profoundly changed not by the efforts of huge institutions, but by individual people.” —Chuck Colson
Create by Stephen Altrogge is a quick motivating read to help you: (1) realize that God created you to be creative, (2) remove the excuses for not exercising your creativity, and (3) encourage you to get something started! You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are some quotes I highlighted in Create.
“Everyone was created to create. It’s hardwired into us by our Maker. … We are created in the image of God we all have an irresistible impulse to create and to establish order. When a painter brings forth beauty from the chaos of his paint palette, he is reflecting the image of God. When an accountant massages an unruly mass of data into an intelligent sales report, she is reflecting the image of God. When a writer assembles letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into pages and pages into a book, he is reflecting the image of God. When a wife tastefully decorates her house with paint colors and throw pillows, she is reflecting the image of God. When a chef mixes flower and sugar and eggs to create a cake, she is reflecting the image of God.”
“If we’re constantly dependent on the approval of other people we’ll always be afraid of failure. If we’re constantly needing the affirmation and praise of those around us then we’ll never take any creative risks. … Our identity is not rooted in what we create it’s rooted in Christ. Our identity is wrapped up in the One who created us, not the things that we create. Our acceptance doesn’t come from our friends or coworkers or fellow artists, it comes from Christ.”
“Be at peace with being lousy for a while. Chesterton once said that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. He was right. Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant first time out.” —Douglas Wilson
“Trying to be perfect all the time takes the fun out of creativity.”
“When you start a creative project don’t look at the end, look at the next step in front of you.”
“A journey of a thousand miles is begun with a step. Beware of despising small beginnings. Some men never arrive at usefulness because they are not satisfied to begin in a small way, and proceed by a step at a time.” —Charles Spurgeon
“Most creative works are the result of faithful effort, not massive creative outbursts.”
“I believe in plodding. Productivity is more a matter of diligent, long-distance hiking than it is one-hundred-yard dashing. Doing a little bit now is far better than hoping to do a lot on the morrow. So redeem the fifteen minute spaces.” —Douglas Wilson
“Being a successful creator requires making a habit out of creativity. The most consistently creative people are the ones who have made creativity a habit. They sit down at their desk every single day and do the work. They may not work for long periods of time, but they do work consistently. They don’t wait for the creative muse to descend upon them. They sit down, grab the muse by the ear, and start putting words on paper or numbers in a spreadsheet or paint on a canvas. The muse does not descend upon those who wait. The creative muse descends upon those who grab hold of it, put it in a headlock, and force it into submission.”
“If our creative work truly is for the honor of God, we should be willing to see it through to the end. … If we give up easily on a project that we believe will honor the Lord, we’re not being faithful. We’re being lazy, and we’re actually being selfish. We’re not allowing others to benefit from the creative gifts that God has given us.”
“If we’re truly seeking to glorify God through creativity, then we should be open to all manner of advice, suggestions, and even criticisms. God created us to be dependent on other people, and this is true in the creative field as well. … If we don’t pursue feedback there’s a pretty good chance that our creative work isn’t going to be very good.”
“Psalm 24:1 says, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein….’ God created the world. Everything in the world belongs to Him and everything in the world is infused with His creativity. The world is literally busting at the seams with the creativity of God. There are ideas lurking around every corner! Creativity is everywhere. We just need to be on the lookout for it.”
Some links to some interesting reading and quotes I found today.
Good thoughts from John Stonestreet: How Will Your Church Deal With Same-Sex “Marriage”?
“If we divide ourselves between God and Mammon, or Christ and self, we shall make no progress. We must give ourselves wholly to holy things or else we shall be poor traders in heavenly business, and at our stocktaking no profit will be shown.” —Charles Spurgeon
A very intelligent post on the Noah movie: Gnosticism And Kabbalah In Aronofsky’s Noah. And if you want to read Dr. Brian Mattson’s complete post (which is referenced in the Gnosticism article), read Sympathy For The Devil. Here is one passage from Dr. Mattson’s post—
“In Darren Aronofsky’s new star-gilt silver screen epic, Noah, Adam and Eve are luminescent and fleshless, right up until the moment they eat the forbidden fruit. Such a notion isn’t found in the Bible, of course. This, among the multitude of Aronofsky’s other imaginative details like giant Lava Monsters, has caused many a reviewer’s head to be scratched. Conservative-minded evangelicals write off the film because of the ‘liberties’ taken with the text of Genesis, while a more liberal-minded group stands in favor of cutting the director some slack. After all, we shouldn’t expect a professed atheist to have the same ideas of ‘respecting’ sacred texts the way a Bible-believer would. Both groups have missed the mark entirely. Aronofsky hasn’t ‘taken liberties’ with anything. The Bible is not his text.”
Fathers, here are 7 Things A Good Dad Says.
Parents not allowed to cheer for their own kids on the basketball court?! Yep! Check this out from Dr. Tim Elmore: The Rules We Create When We Lack Emotional Intelligence.
“When we cannot climb the ladder of prayer, surely God comes down to the foot of it where we lie. … We are His and He is of our kind—only all that is infinitely better.” —George MacDonald
“Are you aware of a brother or sister whose marriage is in turmoil? If so, what do you do about it? Do you merely tell others what a shame it is that they are about to break up? Or do you bring up their names to the Lord and strive for them in prayer? Do you desire this ministry of being a helper in prayer? If you don’t know anyone with a need, start by praying for all Christian marriages and all of God’s saints. Your prayers do not have to be long. Simply state your request, and trust God to hear you.” —David Wilkerson
“But this I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.”
“We live in days of abounding religious profession. There are more places of public worship now than there ever were before. There are more persons attending them than there ever were before. And yet in spite of all this public religion, I believe there is a vast neglect of private prayer.”
“Diligence in prayer is the secret of eminent holiness.”
“Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of private prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall. This is the process which forms the lingering Lots, the unstable Samsons, the wife-idolizing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the pliable Jehoshaphats, the over-careful Marthas, of whom so many are to be found in the church of Christ.”
“You may be very sure men fall in private long before they fall in public. They are backsliders on their knees long before they backslide openly in the eyes of the world. Like Peter, they first disregard the Lord’s warning to watch and pray, and then like Peter, their strength is gone, and in the hour of temptation they deny their Lord.”
“Prayer can lighten crosses for us, however heavy. It can bring down to our side One who will help us to bear them. Prayer can open a door for us when our way seems hedged up. It can bring down One who will say, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all our earthly prospects seem darkened. It can bring down One who will say, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ Prayer can obtain relief for us when those we love most are taken away, and the world feels empty. It can bring down One who can fill the gap in our hearts with Himself, and say to the waves within, ‘Peace; be still.’ Oh that men were not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to the well of living waters close beside them.”
“There is not a single good reason that you can show for living without prayer.”
“Wait not because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Waiting comes from the devil. Just as you are, go to Christ. The worse you are, the more need you have to apply to Him. You will never mend yourself by staying away.”
“Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.”
“It should not be enough to confess we are sinners: we should name the sins of which our conscience tells us we are most guilty. It should not be enough to ask for holiness; we should name the graces in which we feel most deficient. It should not be enough to tell the Lord we are in trouble; we should describe our trouble and all its peculiarities.”
“Sermons and books and tracts, and committee meetings and the company of good men, are all good in their way, but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer.”
I loved the challenging message about prayer in Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Here are 15 quotes that especially stood out to me.
“You don’t need to seek opportunity. All you have to do is seek God. And if you seek God, opportunity will seek you.”
“Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them. I’m certainly not suggesting we shouldn’t pray deliverance prayers, but there are times we need to pray prevailing prayers. …We’re often so anxious to get out of difficult, painful, or challenging situations that we fail to grow through them. We’re so fixated on getting out of them that we don’t get anything out of them. We fail to learn the lessons God is trying to teach us or cultivate the character God is trying to grow in us. We’re so focused on God changing our circumstances that we never allow God to change us! So instead of ten or twenty years of experience, we have one year of experience repeated ten or twenty times. Sometimes we need to pray ‘get me out’ prayers. But sometimes we need to pray ‘get me through’ prayers. And we need the discernment to know when to pray what.”
“After hitting our knees, we need to take a small step of faith. And those small steps of faith often turn into giant leaps. Like Noah, who kept building an ark day after day, we keep hammering away at the dream God has given us. Like the Israelites, who kept circling Jericho for seven days, we keep circling God’s promises. Like Elijah, who kept sending his servant back to look for a rain cloud, we actively and expectantly wait for God’s answer. …We can pray until our knees are numb, but if our praying isn’t accompanied by acting, then we won’t get anywhere. We need to put feet to our faith. After kneeling down, we need to stand up and step out in faith.”
“Maybe our normal is so subnormal that normal seems abnormal. Maybe we need a new normal. Bold prayers and big dreams are normal. Anything less is subnormal.”
“Prayer gives us a God’s-eye view. It heightens our awareness and gives us a sixth sense that enables us to perceive spiritual realities that are beyond our five senses.”
“Praying is planting. Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations. …Even when we die, our prayers don’t. Each prayer takes on a life, an eternal life, of its own.”
“It’s our childlike faith, not our theological vocabulary, that moves the heart of our Heavenly Father.”
“Praying hard is not the path of least resistance; it’s usually the path of most resistance because we engage in spiritual warfare. …It’s the prayers you pray when you feel like you want to quit praying that can bring the greatest breakthroughs.”
“Our problem typically isn’t overclaiming the promises of God; it’s underclaiming them.”
“You’ve got to praise God if the answer is yes and trust Him if the answer if no. If the answer is not yet, you’ve got to keep circling. It’s always too soon to give up! What other option do you have? To pray or not to pray. Those are the only options.”
“Drawing prayer circle isn’t some magic trick to get what you want from God. God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish. If it’s not, you won’t be drawing prayer circles; you’ll end up walking in circles. …Until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply.”
“Sin doesn’t just harden the heart; it also hardens our hearing. In fact, it makes us turn a deaf ear to God because we don’t want to hear the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit. But if you aren’t willing to listen to the convicting voice of the Spirit, you won’t hear His comforting voice, forgiving voice, or merciful voice either. Sin creates relational distance, and distance makes it harder to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. But if you get close to God, you won’t miss a thing he says. And if you incline your ear to God, God will incline His ear to you.”
“There comes a moment when praying becomes a form of spiritual procrastination. It’s time to stop praying and start acting. …One of the great mistakes we make is asking God to do for us what God wants us to do for Him. …Prayer that doesn’t lead to action isn’t true prayer; it’s self-talk. When we talk to God, God will talk back to us. He will provoke us, rouse us, stir us, goad us, and prompt us. When we say ‘amen,’ inaction is no longer an option.”
“When God answers a prayer, no matter how big or how small, we need to share it. It’s a stewardship issue. If we don’t turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride.”
I don’t work for God’s blessings. I work for God because He has already blessed me! My labor is a labor of love and gratitude!
How do I show I love God? I help others. Not just once, but continually. In the next verses the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that my labor of love should be:
No coasting. No waiting for others to serve me first. No slacking.
God has blessed me so that I can be a blessing to others. This is how I show my gratitude for the blessings of God I have been given—
For those who have been loved by God there’s no other way to live and love.
Disclaimer: My aggregate soap opera viewing time for my entire life is about 52 minutes, but I still think I know what I’m talking about <grin!>.
Soap operas are usually pretty predictable. If you’ve watched them for even a short time it’s not hard to figure out who’s who and what’s what. In fact, the plot lines are typically so predictable that you can stop watching a particular soap opera for months — or even years — and when you tune in again it will only take a day or so to once again know who’s who and what’s what.
One of main reasons for this is the simplicity of the plot lines. There are three types of characters: good guys, bad guys, and the wishy-washy guys that are swayed by the good guys or bad guys.
We applaud when the good guys win and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. We groan when the good guys get unfairly treated and the bad guys seem to get away with their badness. If we could give advice to the soap opera characters it would be pretty straightforward: “If you’re a good guy we’ll cheer for you!”
But here’s the problem — it’s becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between the good guys and bad guys. It seems like more of them fall into the wishy-washy category. Over time the characters have become mostly good but can be swayed to take revenge or cut corners. Or they’re mostly bad but still have a soft place in their heart to help the little orphan child. There are very few good guys left.
There’s a drift from good to mostly good. But mostly good is only one step away from mostly bad. And only one more step from mostly bad to all just-plain-bad.
I’ve been reading through the soap opera history of the kings of Israel and Judah. Like our modern soap operas there are three types of kings: (a) the good kings did what was right in God’s eyes; (b) the bad kings did what was evil in the God’s eyes; and (c) the wishy-washy kings usually did what was right but had a “however” attached to their reign.
The good kings typically had long, prosperous reigns with God’s blessing, and the bad kings usually had short, turbulent reigns apart from God’s blessing. If we could give advice to those soap opera kings it would be pretty straightforward: “If you’re a good king God will bless you!”
Unfortunately, the good kings tended to drift from good to mostly good, and eventually to mostly bad. The drift continued each generation toward mostly bad until God was hard-pressed to find any king who wasn’t bad. How sad — God’s blessing was right there for any good king to claim, but they kept on drifting away!
Drifting happens so easily, which is why we have to be so diligent.
You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him. That’s right — you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set. You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live; now You expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course You set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with Your counsel. I thank You for speaking straight from Your heart; I learn the pattern of Your righteous ways. (Psalm 119:1-7, The Message)
Just like those soap opera characters or soap opera kings, we can get some pretty straightforward advice from the Bible: “If you stay on course, walk straight along the road God set for you, He will bless your life.”
Don’t drift. Don’t settle for mostly good. Don’t assume you’re doing right in God’s eyes, know that you’re doing right.