Guidance Part 6 – To the open door

Wisdom will lead us to the open door. Consider this verse (the words in brackets are my definitions):

Prov 4:12 When thou goest [walk], thy steps shall not be straitened [hampered]; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.

First, notice the contrast in this verse: walking and running. When we walk in wisdom, our steps will not be “straitened”, or in other words, constricted, narrowed, or hampered by obstacles that would hinder our forward progress. And even when we run, we will not stumble.  You may remember the line from the Mr. Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland:  “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” (Lewis Carroll). That is true that when we run absent guidance and wisdom, but if we boldly charge ahead through a strategic course set by wisdom, we will not stumble.

Wisdom prepares and preserves our path, so regardless of our speed, whether walking or running, we will make progress because God opens the way to keep us from stumbling.

Guidance Part 5 – To God’s Map

When seeking guidance, the very best option would be if God handed you a note and said, “Here. Follow these directions.” Well, these next verses give us that kind of assurance.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Notice the principles laid out here that end with the amazing promise: “He shall direct thy paths.” In order to assure divine guidance in our lives, the Word tells us to:
(1) trust the Lord and not yourself;
(2) acknowledge and seek His plan.

Humanistic reasoning would give different advice: “Trust yourself and your instincts—go with your gut feelings.” The uncertainty here is that the trustworthiness of our gut feelings depends entirely on what we have been feeding our gut. If we have been feeding ourselves with sensual or selfish pleasures, our instincts will drive us the wrong way.

However, when you plant your trust firmly in the Lord, note your human limitations, and pursue His plan, you can trust that He will fill your “gut” and guide your heart with wise direction. Then you can trust that the Lord will direct you by planting each of your steps on His map.

Guidance Part 4 – To the Right Decision—Every Time

Wisdom does not help us find the path of the righteousness just once in a while, it helps us find every good path. That is what the proverb says.

Prov 2:9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

The Living Bible paraphrase says, the wise will “find the right decision every time.” I like that. If we dive into an unfamiliar task or subject with the goal of searching until we find understanding, that works its way into our thinking as sound wisdom that reveals right from wrong so that we can come up with the correct choice.

Wisdom will help us with decisions from large to small: Should I take a job in another city? Should I major in that program? Should I marry that person? All the way down to the choice about how long to dawdle around the house before heading out the door to work.

For a time, I rode the bus to work every day, and one particular morning, after dawdling too long around the house, I arrived at the bus stop at the same moment as the bus. I rapidly waved my hands gesturing the driver to stop, but it was too late. He did not see me.

As the bus sped past me, I put my arms down, shook my head, and turned to walk back to our apartment and thought, “If I had arrived only five seconds sooner, I would be on that bus right now.” If I had been paying attention to the time earlier that morning—the wise choice—wisdom would have placed me on the right path. It does every time.

Allow time for wisdom to speak, listen to what it says, and don’t leave home without it. That is how you will find every good path or the right choice every time.

Guidance Part 3 – To the Righteous Path

A good rule of thumb for any new undertaking is to diligently seek out and pursue the wisest path to get where you want to go.

For instance, when you are going somewhere you have never been, it is wise to consult a map. Begin by noting where you are; next, where you want to end up; and finally, figure a course for the best route between the two points. That is the wise way.

An alternative would be to just get in your car and start driving and “go with your gut”, and hope you will arrive at the desired destination. What is more likely is that you will arrive at McDonalds. We need more than our gut—we need wisdom for the journey.

Obtaining wisdom is the subject of Proverbs chapter 2, so look at this verse and see how wisdom connects us with the best path:

Prov 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

This verse tells us that by seeking wisdom for our path, we will find ourself in the company of good people. But failing to plan is to planning to fail, so let this be the year of pursuing wisdom in all your pursuits so that you will find yourself among some “good men” (and women) and walking on the path of righteousness.

Guidance part 2—Like a Godly Parent

As we look for direction for our 2017 pursuits, think about how we used to ask our parents along the journey, “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “What will it be like there?” “What’s coming next?” So as we felt comfortable asking our parents those kind of questions, to make this year a better year, get into the habit of looking at God as your Father (He is) and ask Him about the steps on the journey.

Proverbs 6 is advice from a father to a son, and here the father tells his son the advantage he will enjoy for paying attention to wise counsel:

Prov 6:22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

When we need guidance, we often lean on the example set by our parents. When pondering a decision, our thought process may go like this: “Hmmm. What should I do here? Well, dad/mom used to always say…”

If we had godly or at least moral parents, we can draw on the counsel they gave us on life situations because at some point, they probably faced the same circumstance we are facing now. After all, there is “nothing new under the son.”

Moral teaching from our parents can be a guiding voice to us into adulthood. Godly direction will lead us as walk, and even when we are not living right, that godly teaching we got in our youth will not escape us and will often speak to us in the quiet of the night.

Good, godly advice will continue to talk with us. We just need to give heed to that word.

Guidance for 2017

As folks return to work and school after Christmas and New Year’s break, many are thinking about making and implementing their plans for the new year. A good rule of thumb for any new undertaking is to diligently seek out and pursue the wisest path to get where you want to go.

So if you have a map, consult it. If you have GPS, enter your starting and end points. If you are launching a new business, starting in a new job, new school, new semester, new relationship, or even attempting a plumbing repair for the first time, your starting point should be to investigate the subject wisely.

Obtaining wisdom is the subject of Proverbs chapter 2. Look at this verse:

Prov 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

By pursuing wisdom you can walk in the ways of good men and keep the paths of the righteous. That sounds too simple.

But how many of us have ever started an undertaking by saying, “I want to follow a really stupid plan so I can end up in the midst of really bad people?” No one ever starts out with that goal, but failure to plan wisely may get you there anyway.

Let this be the year of pursuing wisdom in all that you do so that you will find yourself among some “good men” (and women) and walking on the path of righteousness.

What is Your Part?

Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

What part do you want to play? Do you want the leading role with the most lines and action? That is the part Martha chose. Or would you be willing to play the part of a crowd fill-in who just listens while others speak? That is the part Mary choose. It sure sounds like Martha’s part was more fun. Wouldn’t that be our top choice as well? Well Jesus had an opinion on the choices of these women and we should pay attention to what He said and why He said it.

Martha was a very busy host of a dinner party of no less than sixteen people, including her two siblings, Jesus, and his twelve disciples. That is a lot of people to prepare for and serve. But while she was busy attending to all the details of the event, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and just listened. Martha complained to Jesus asking Him to make Mary come help.

While Jesus would not support laziness, neither does He support inattentiveness to the Word. There is a time to work—that is an important part of life. But Jesus said, “Mary hath chosen that good part”—to do the one thing that was needful, to listen to the voice of Jesus while He was speaking. What Mary gained from Jesus, instruction, direction, comfort, assurance, and faith, would never be taken from her. Satan cannot snatch away good seed that was planted in the good soil of a hungry heart. But what Martha chose, food prep and a clean house, were taken from her. After the party the food was gone and the room was a mess.

As you evaluate 2016 for what worked for you and what didn’t, consider more time at Jesus’ feet in 2017. That is an investment you will never lose nor regret.

Why Me?

Luke 2:8-20
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Have you ever stopped to think about why God chose to give such a message to shepherds? The message that could be realistically described as the greatest news in human history up to that moment—and He chose to give it to shepherds.

While they might have been thankful to at least have a job, even though it was a night-shift position, it was not a position of prestige. It was a lowly laboring job. It’s not likely that these shepherds were highly spiritual or super holy individuals who had been fasting and praying for a special revelation from God, and had everything put together in their lives. It is highly probable that they were not wealthy, prestigious, influential, dressed in fine clothes, smelled of imported fragrances, or were purpose-driven high-achieving individuals.

No, they were shepherds with a seven-word job description: “keeping watch over their flock by night.” The day after, they could have been asking, “Why me?

For some reason, God gave them the message of good tidings of great joy that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born. Here is my idea for why God chose them, and it could be the same reason God has chosen you: (1) they were attentive when God was speaking while others slept, (2) they obediently followed through on the message, and (3) they shared their story with many.

Lessons from the lowly: stop slumbering and pay attention to God; obey what God has told you; then share your testimony with everyone you know.

Making a difference

Would you characterize your approach to life as someone who just goes with the flow? Do you avoid moving against the tide or making waves? Do you make it a priority to not disturb others and avoid speaking things that might go against their grain? While that may be the way some of us work, that is not how Jesus worked.

Because we were flesh and blood humans, Jesus chose to come in that same way:
 Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

But in leaving His dwelling in heaven and becoming a man, His humble birth was followed by His act of destroying the devil. Talk about making waves and disturbing the peace! Jesus did just that. But not for Himself—for us. I needed someone to jerk me out of the mess my life was in, and I’m glad God placed certain individuals in my life who were bold enough to disturb me right out of satan’s grip and into the kingdom of God.

What can you do to move out from your undisturbing life to reach out to someone who needs what Jesus offers? Rather than focusing on gifts, food, and sports this season, think of Jesus, not just as a baby in a manger, but as the destroyer of the devil’s control.

The Best Place to Be is In The Church (part 14)

Last week we looked at a benefit of being in the church—being purchased by God’s blood. Not only does God claim ownership over us as His creation, but if we are in the church, we are double-owned as His blood-bought child.

Before we surrendered to God and became part of His purchased prize, we were servants of sin:

Rom 6:16-17
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

So yes, God be thanked that you are no longer a servant of sin. But what exactly does that mean in practical terms? It is freedom to be God’s servant. You are no longer controlled by urges of sin that lead to the destruction of things that are truly the most important to you.

Rom 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Free indeed means I am God’s servant, and when it comes to the things that once controlled me, I can rely on God’s authority over me to keep those things from recapturing me. Suppose you were controlled by an addiction to alcohol. You craved it and spent much of your paycheck on it. You were depressed without it and became dependent on it, and you needed it to relax. But it was also like being in love with poison. You couldn’t pay your bills or support your family because you were always broke the day after payday. It caused tension, disappointment, and sometimes fear among those you loved the most. It caused you to be late or miss work because it gave you a sick headache. So what you thought was a pleasure that you partook of at your desire, actually became a prison sentence that controlled your very existence.

That’s when the purchase of Jesus’ blood brought you into service of Jesus Christ. Now when that ugly addiction makes an appearance before you, the Holy Ghost on the inside rises up like the turret on a battle tank and blows it away. Jesus made you free!

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