Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pursuing Righteousness

True or False. 
Proverbs promises that God will direct the paths of those who trust Him.  Proverbs 3:6.
True or False.
Proverbs states that God won’t correct those He loves. Proverbs 3:12.

Pursuing Righteousness
Devotional Reading:  Psalm 115:3-11                                                                
Background Scripture:  Proverbs 3
Key verse:  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

Lesson Aim: After participating in this lesson, you will be able to:
1.        Identify principles that lead to a blessed life.
2.       Explain why “the fear of the Lord” is foundational to other proverbial principles.
3.       Identify an area of life that can be aligned more closely with the Lord’s will by application of a proverbial principle and make a plan to do so.

Healthy Fear
Growing up I had a healthy fear of my dad.  I knew that if I pushed the limits, he would not hesitate to spank me.  Fear didn’t always translate into obedience, though.

Can you think of a time when you were disobedient to your dad?

                          There came a point in my life where I determined that I would obey my dad…these are
                          the benefits of discipline that results in wisdom.  

                              I.   Key to successful Living – (Proverbs 3:1,2)

a.        Principle (v.1)
The address to my son begins at Proverbs 1;8 and continues throughout the long prologue.  Most education in ancient Israel is given from father to son, mother to daughter in what we call today a “home schooling” context.

The words law and commandments are often linked in the Old Testament in such a way as to be identical.  The law and commandments are from God – laws that the father interprets and passes along to his son (Proverbs 6:23).

These laws and commandments are firm in the father’s mind, and the son must not forget them!  This is more than just simple advice.  The father desires complete obedience from the son.

The word heart in these tests refers to the core personality of the person being addressed.  Therefore the heart of the son includes his mind, emotions, and will.  Keeping the commandments affects the inner being from which actions flow.

b.      Benefits (v. 2)
A child has the best chance at experiencing a healthy and full life if they obey the Word of God as taught and lived by dedicated parents.

Whoever finds wisdom, finds life (Proverbs 3:16; 8:35).

Exodus 20:12; Job 12:12; and Psalm 91:16.

The alternative side is found in Proverbs 11:19.

What do you think?
What are some benefits you have received by following God’s commands?
·         In the area of health.
·         In the area of peace.
·         In the area of finances.

                 II.  Key to Good Reputation – (Proverbs 3:3,4)
a.       Principle (v.3)
The principle here is an admonition to bind mercy and truth about the neck as if it were a necklace.  The words mercy and truth appear together often in the Old Testament.  

The word mercy can take various shades of meaning, depending on the context.  But mercy is connected so often with the word covenant that many think of it as “covenant loyalty” (Deut. 7:9, 12; 1 Kings 8:23).

The word truth carries the idea of “reliability” (Psalm 71:22; Isaiah 61:8).

Rebellious and disobedient people are often described as being “stiffnecked” (Exodus 32:9; Jeremiah 17:23; Acts 7:51) and having hardened hearts (2 Chronicles 36:13; Matthew 19:8). 

It is appropriate to learn those characteristics that will keep the neck from stiffening and the heart from hardening – namely, mercy and truth.

When we allow such godly characteristics to become a part of our core being, we find ourselves reaping the benefits.

What do you think?
                What will you do today to write mercy and truth on the table of your heart?
·         The biblical practice of mercy and truth that result in the writing.
·         The biblical study of mercy and truth that result in their practice.
·         Negative: Psalm 78:56-58; James 2:13.

b.      Benefits (v.4)
If a person’s character includes the couplet of “mercy/covenant loyalty” and “truth/reliability.” Then the result will be favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

The word favor implies “acceptance”; good understanding signifies “prudence” or “insight”.   
The combination of these ideas means having a good reputation with both God and people.

                  III.  Key to Right Path – (Proverbs 3:5,6)
a.       Principles (vs. 5, 6a)
To trust in the Lord is a very active concept.  The kind of trust we are talking about demands a commitment of a person’s whole being – mind, emotions, will, and body.

The word heart is prominent throughout the first part of our text.

What do you think?
How will you practice trust in the Lord in the various areas of life?
·         Mind.      ·         Emotions.     ·         Will     ·         Body.

b.      Benefits (v. 6b)
We get into trouble when we begin to trust in our own resources and abilities (Isaiah 5:21).
Life is filled with complexities, and we need the Lord’s help with those.  The next time you think you have something “all figured out,” stop and meditate on what God’s viewpoint might be.

The spiritually mature person allows the word and wisdom of Christ to direct their path (Colossians 3:16).

Do you know someone or are you that person who just won’t stop and ask for directions?  
Now we have these fantastic GPS units to guide and direct us…We can think of the Bible as our Eternal Positioning System.

God has “programmed” it to be perfectly reliable.  Its signal strength never fades.  But we must consult it.

Each of us is tempted at the times to be a “know-it-all.”  But those who pride fully trust in their own understanding will find themselves spiritually lost and, perhaps, not willing to admit that fact.

The simple message here is to know God.  I mean to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we practice the presence of God in all aspects of our lives. (Philippians 3:7-11).

When we humbly seek to know God, then He will make our ways straight or smooth. 
Walking a straight and smooth path directed by God is the only way to go! (Jeremiah 10:23).

                  IV. Key to Healthy Life – (Proverbs 3:7,8)
a.       Principle (v. 7)
We cannot fear God until arrogance and conceit are gone.  The fear of God is the heartbeat of the Proverbs. (Romans 12:16; James 3:13-16)

The Christian is not exempt from the need to fear God (Acts 9:31, 2 Corinthians 5:11; Hebrews 12:28, 29; 1 Peter 2:17)

b.      Benefits (v. 8)
Humility, the fear of God, and turning from evil will bring health spiritually, psychologically, and physically.  There is a clear connection between one’s spiritual well-being and one’s physical and mental well-being.  Each influences the others.

                    V.  Key to Blessings – (Proverbs 3:9,10)
a.       Principle (v. 9)
A generous heart is in imitation of the Lord (Psalm 111:5; 112:5).  The concept of firstfruits comes over into the New Testament in important ways (Romans 8:23; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; James 1:18)

What do you think?
What specific ways will you honor God with your “firstfruits” in the week ahead?
·         Firstfruits of time.     ·         Firstfruits of money.     ·         Firstfruits of relationships.

b.      Benefits (v. 10)
Malachi records God’s challenge to the ancient Israelites to give the entire tithe so that He might bless them abundantly (Malachi 3:10-12).

God blesses those who are faithful, generous, and sacrificial in their giving (Mark 10:29, 30).
Meditate on Jesus’ parable of the greedy farmer in Luke 12:16-21.

                   VI.  Key to Love – (Proverbs 3:11, 12)
a.        Principle (v. 11)
Only a fool despises discipline (Proverbs 1:7; 15:5)

God’s discipline and correction include suffering.  Even so, we should be careful to understand that not all affliction results from wrongdoing.  Look at Job’s case for an example.

b.      Benefits (v. 12)
The benefit of discipline and correction by the Lord is the assurance that He loves us.  Our human parents also discipline us for our good.

Not all afflictions are discipline for wrongdoing.  But affliction develops our character that we can share in God’s holiness (Romans 5:3-5)

What do you think?
What was a time that you benefited from receiving the discipline and correction of the Lord?
·         In a time of distress (sin, discouragement, etc.)     ·         In a time of plenty.

VII.              Conclusion
a.       Learning to Fear the Lord
i.                     Obey the instructions of your parents and God – that will give you the best shot at a long and successful life!
ii.                   Be committed in your innermost being to God’s truth – you will win a good reputation with God and humanity!
iii.                  Trust only in the Lord and not in yourself – He will make your paths smooth!
iv.                 Have great reverence and awe for God while fleeing evil – you will live a very healthy life indeed!
v.                   Put God first in your giving by giving your most and your best – you will discover more blessings than you can imagine!
vi.                 Accept the sufferings and difficulties in life – you will find behind them a loving Father who desires your best!

Learning to fear God gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  Living a lifestyle that embraces these six principles will produce the best kind of life:  one that pleases God.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lesson 28 - Accepting the Unacceptable

Lesson 28 – Accepting the Unacceptable

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?  What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

A Problem
How do you generally handle shocking news or an unfair situation?
Do you react in anger, shock, despair, hopelessness?

What would those closest to you say about your ability to face your problems or accept change?
Would they say she faces problems or change with finesse?  You never seem to see her break a sweat.  She is the type of person who looks a challenge in the face and says “bring it on, I can do this” or do they say that any little trial or road block sends you into a tailspin leaving you with a hopeless outlook?

A Scripture
Write out Romans 11:33.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

Next write out any problems or issues you are dealing with, either present or past.
*  health issue
*  a financial decision
*  whether to take on a Sunday school teacher position
*  a volunteer opportunity
*  life changing decisions like starting a family or adopting a child
*  Educational decisions such as which degree to pursue, which school to attend, etc.
*  selling your house
*  buying a new car/ getting repair work done on a car
*  Going for a promotion at work/ changing employers
* Motivational issues such as devoting more time to reading the Bible or becoming more regular in church attendance.

Lay your problems next to the forever-truths of Romans 11:33.
There is an abundance of wisdom and knowledge; it does not end. The knowledge and wisdom of God are wonderfully displayed. 

In the doctrine of redemption and salvation by Christ, He has had the far reaching sight in all wisdom and forethought to implement the matter of salvation.  It is done in a way that glorifies all the divine perfections.

The rights of God's justice and the honor of His holiness are secured.  His love, grace, and mercy are displayed. 

The wisdom of God distinctly appears, in the doctrine of a sinner's justification.  And while it comes from grace, on the foot of redemption and satisfaction, in a way of strict justice; God is just.  The doctrine of predestination is full of the wisdom and knowledge of God. 

How unsearchable are his judgments!
They are not to be understood of his awful judgments on wicked men in particular, which are the deep things of God, and are only searched out by the Spirit of God, who reveals them to us:

And his ways past finding out!
not the methods and course of his wisdom, his footsteps are not to be known, discerned, and traced, by predictable creatures; but rather the goings forth and steps of his wisdom from everlasting, which are higher than the ways of men, even as the heavens are higher than the earth; and which are all mercy and truth to his chosen people, and strict justice to others, and not to be found out by any; particularly his ways and methods, and dealings, with both Jews and Gentiles these are things out of our reach and comprehension.

            What do you learn about your problems?
            What do you learn about God?

An Instrument
Have you memorized Romans 11:33?  Why not do it now?

Look at Psalm 119:9 and 11.  What are the benefits of memorizing Scripture?
9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
10. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart
Not only heard and read it, but received it into your regards; mixed it with faith, laid it up in your mind and memory for future use; preserved it in your heart as a choice treasure, where it might dwell richly, and be of service to you on many occasions; and particularly be of the following use:

that I might not sin against thee;
the word of God is a most powerful medicine against sin, when it has a place in the heart; not only the teachings of it forbid sin, but the promises of it influence and engage to purity of heart and life, and to the perfecting of holiness in the fear of the Lord; and all the doctrines of grace in it successfully teach the saints to deny all sin and worldly lusts, and to live a holy life and conversation

What reigning position should God’s Word have in your life, according to Colossians 3:16?
16. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

How did Jesus handle temptation in Matthew 4:4, 7, and 10?
4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
7. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
10. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

How could having Romans 11:33 hidden in your heart become a mighty instrument in God’s hands to help you with all your problems?

An Acceptance
Think again of your most pressing problem or the most unexplainable event in your life.  Then pray through Romans 11:33, and check each of the attitudes below that indicate your “acceptance of the unacceptable” – your acceptance of God’s will and way for your life.

__ I don’t have to understand everything.
__ I don’t need to understand everything.
__ I can’t understand everything.
__ Why ask “Why”?
__ It’s O.K.
__ Let it go.
__ Let God be God.
__ Let go of your right to know.
__ These are God’s judgments.
__ These are God’s ways.
__ No vengeance!
__ It’s not them, it’s Him!

Spend some added time in prayer about the attitudes you are unable to check.  Ask God to continue to teach you to love Him with all your mind.  Also ask Him to help you let go of those things about your life that you don’t understand.  And thank Him for all He has taught you in this study of six powerful passages from His Word!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lesson 27 - Trusting God in the Dark

Lesson 27 – Trusting God in the Dark

What meant the most to you from this chapter or helped you think more accurately about God’s character and the truth of His Word?  What offered you the greatest challenge or blessing, and why?

Remembering God’s Wisdom and Knowledge
Look at your dictionary definitions from last week.  Copy below your 5-10 word summary of the terms unsearchable, unfathomable, inexhaustible, inscrutable, and impossible.  .  It is impossible to understand; therefore, His wisdom calls us to faith.

Here are a few things God knows about you:
Ø  God knows every situation in your life.
Ø  God knows why each situation is in your life.
Ø  God knows how each situation will end.
Ø  God knows when each situation will end.

How does the truth that God knows all about you enable you to better accept the unacceptable, difficult, and painful situations in your life?

Acknowledging God’s judgments
Read Psalm 19:9-11. 
9  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
What do these scriptures say about wisdom?
11  Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

How are God’s judgments characterized in verse 9?
Ø  Fear of the Lord ... enduring
Ø  ... true

What two desirable things described in verses 9-10 are less desirable than God’s judgments?
Ø   Gold
Ø  Honey and the honeycomb

What is the result of heeding God’s judgments (verse 11)?
Ø  great reward

Read Psalm 119:137. 
137 Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.

How is God’s judgment described? Righteous (Good, honest, honorable, moral, and blameless) and upright (decent and honest).

Read 119:1-8.
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.

The psalm appears to be intended to show the excellency of the law and the happy effects of obeying it, in every variety of form, and with every variety of expression.  The psalmist here shows that godly people are happy people; they are, and shall be, blessed indeed.

All men would be happy, but few take the right way; God has lain before us the right way, which we may be sure will end in happiness, though it be straight and narrow. Blessedness’s are to the righteous; all manner of blessedness.

Now observe the characters of the happy people.

Those are happy,
1. Who make the will of God the rule of all their actions, and govern themselves, in their whole conversation, by that rule: They walk in the law of the Lord, (verse 1).

God’s word is a law to them, not only in this or that instance, but in the whole course of their conversation; they walk within the hedges of that law, which they dare not break through by doing any thing it forbids; and they walk in the paths of that law, which they will not trifle in, but press forward in them towards the mark, taking every step by rule and never walking at all adventures.

This is walking in God’s ways (verse 3), the ways which he has marked out to us and has appointed us to walk in. We must walk in his ways, not in the way of the world, or of our own hearts, Job. 23:10, Job. 23:11 Job. 31:7 .

2. Those who would walk in the law of the Lord must keep his testimonies, that is, his truths. Seek him with their whole heart. They do not seek themselves and their own things, but God only; this is that which they aim at, that God may be glorified in their obedience and that they may be happy in God’s acceptance. He is, and will be, the rewarder, the reward, of all those who thus seek him diligently, seek him with the heart, for that is it that God looks at and requires; and with the whole heart, for if the heart be divided between him and the world it is faulty.

3. Who carefully avoid all sin (v. 3): They do no iniquity; they do not allow themselves in any sin; they do not commit it as those do who are the servants of sin; they do not make a practice of it, do not make a trade of it.

They are conscious to themselves of much iniquity that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that iniquity which draws them out of those ways. Blessed and holy are those who thus exercise themselves to have always consciences void of offence.

We are here taught,
1.      To own ourselves under the highest obligations to walk in God’s law.

(verse 4): Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts, to make religion our rule; and to keep them diligently, to make religion our business and to mind it carefully and constantly.

To look up to God for wisdom and grace to do so (verse 5): O that my ways were directed accordingly!

not let anything be a hindrance to us, but a furtherance rather, in the service of God, that our hearts may be so guided and influenced by the Spirit of God that we may not in any thing transgress God’s commandments—not only that our eyes may be directed to behold God’s statutes, but our hearts directed to keep them.

2.      To encourage ourselves in the way of our duty with a prospect of the comfort we shall find in it, (verse 6).

It is the unquestionable character of every good man that he has a respect to all God’s commandments. He has respect to all the commandments, one as well as another, because they are all backed with the same authority (Jam. 2:10, Jam. 2:11 ) with same purpose, the glorifying of God in our happiness.

Those who have a sincere respect to any command will have a general respect to every command.

Those who have a sincere respect to all God’s commandments shall not be ashamed, not only they will be kept from doing things that will bring shame, but they will have confidence towards God and boldness of access to the throne of his grace, 1 Jn. 3:21 .

They shall have credit before men; their honesty will be their honour.

In verses 7-8,

I.                   David hopes to learn God’s righteous judgments. He knew much, but was still pressing forward and desired to know more.  As long as we live we must be scholars in Christ’s school, and sit at his feet. God’s judgments are all righteous, and therefore it is desirable not only to learn them, but to be learned in them, mighty in the scriptures.

II.                David coveted to be learned in the laws of God, so he might give God the glory of his learning. Those have learned a good lesson who have learned to praise God, for that is the work of angels, the work of heaven. It is an easy thing to praise God in word and tongue; but those only are well learned in this mystery who have learned to praise him with uprightness of heart, that is, are inward with him in praising him, and sincerely aim at his glory in the course of their conversation as well as in the exercises of devotion.

God accepts only the praises of the upright. That he might himself come under the government of that learning: When I shall have learned thy righteous judgments I will keep thy statutes. We cannot keep them unless we learn them; but we learn them in vain if we do not keep them.

III.              David’s prayer to God is to not to leave him.  Good men see themselves at great risk if God leaves them; for then the temptations will be too hard for them.

List some of the other words used interchangeably with God’s judgment.
Precepts - These point to our essential duty toward God.
Statutes - "prescribed matters."

Accepting without Answers
When the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would bear God’s Son, she accepted something she did not understand. 

What do you think keeps you or others from responding to the un-understandable events of life with Mary’s accepting attitude, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?

Acknowledging God’s Ways
God’s ways are the methods by which He carries out His judgments. 
Text Box: Loving God…Even More
Read this section in your book again.  As you consider the contents of this chapter and God’s amazing love for you, what can you do this week, in obedience to Christ…

…to think on the truth about God?

…to trust God “in the dark”? 

 …to love God with all your mind?

Oh what a wonderful God we have!
What do you learn about God’s ways in Isaiah 55:8-9?
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

How does the fact that God’s ways are unsearchable and unfathomable help you to “trust God in the dark” in your difficult situation?