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September 2 2016 6 02 /09 /September /2016 14:53
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7

NRSV

In order to obtain knowledge, we must first fear God. What does it mean to “fear” God? It is to have an awe and a reverence for God. This is the first step to gaining knowledge and with it wisdom. God desires us to learn and grow in knowledge of Him, therefore, we must understand what God likes and dislikes. How are we to grow in knowledge? We must first learn how to read and write. God does not wish for His followers to be ignorant. We don’t want to be fools either because a fool despises wisdom and instruction as it says in this proverb. There may be a degree of humility involved in allowing ourselves to be instructed. God’s true believers must welcome instruction and new learning as long as we don’t denounce our Creator.

 

There are some Christians who are very suspicious of new ideas for understanding a passage because it may challenge dearly held doctrinal beliefs. If a dearly held tradition is questioned, we should welcome it as a challenge to our faith and push us to search the scriptures (Acts 17:11). If a doctrine or tradition does no fit with what the Word of God says, it should be thrown out. This is easier said than done, nonetheless, believers can have greater confidence defending their faith when challenged if their entire doctrine is sound. Many believers fall into the category of “well, my father did it this way, my grand-father and great-grand-father before him did it this way, therefore, it must be right.” Jeremiah 16:19b says: “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthless and unprofitable things” (NKJV). Therefore, our parents and grandparents may not have understood everything in the Bible, but this may have been the result of not having access to the most recent biblical scholarship. God won’t condemn them for that, however, he may condemn them for despising wisdom and instruction. God wants us to grow in knowledge of Him as long as we keep that godly fear – that awe and reverence for a Holy God. Our secular education system sadly instructs students to grow in the opposite direction of God, which is not what God wishes. The knowledge obtained in our secular system can be good, however, without God at the forefront, the knowledge learned may not be directed in the right direction nor used properly. Job 28:28 describes a fear of the LORD as wisdom itself and “to depart from evil is understanding.” We must begin with a fear of the LORD and then knowledge and wisdom blesses us with an understanding to depart from evil.

 

I have found with my own experience, that true wisdom and understanding doesn’t come from ourselves or from the people around us. Depending on the environments we come from, it can be even harder to understand what true wisdom may be. I have even found among some of the most educated a lack of wisdom, however, I am not against obtaining a higher education. I believe God sincerely wishes for His people to become educated and better themselves. Nonetheless, wisdom is not found in more education or many experiences; it may help but they are not necessary. Wisdom is not found among the living (Job 28:12-13), but from God.

 

As for myself, I had to have a hard traumatic slap to my belief system in order to get me on my knees and recognize that I don’t have all the answers, and that I cannot from my own strength stop the evil that I continue to persist in. Wisdom and understanding don’t come from good families or friends; again, it may help us in the right direction, but it does not give godly wisdom. Only wisdom that comes from God can give us the strength to overcome life’s difficulties and leave unhealthy habits and relationships. Job 32:8-9 says: “But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that make for understanding. It is not the old that are wise, nor the aged that understand what is right (NKJV).” Therefore, we must not assume that since he/she had all these experiences or that they are old that this automatically makes them wise. It is the breath of God that gives understanding and the wisdom that comes with it that allows us to humbly listen to others who have more education or more experiences without feeling ashamed. As a result, we grow more in understanding because we aren’t afraid of asking questions. Thank you El Shaddai, God Almighty for granting me the vision to have an awe and reverence for you. Only you gave me the strength to leave the sin I couldn’t stop myself from committing. Only you gave me the strength to swallow my pride. You have truly saved me from myself!

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August 25 2016 5 25 /08 /August /2016 10:07
The Fear of the LORD is the hatred of evil

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil, Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and the perverted speech I hate. – Proverbs 8:13

NRSV

I have been coming across the “fear of the LORD” often in my bible readings in the past few weeks predominantly because I have been reading the Proverbs. When I think of a “biblical fear”, it is not the type of fear that one experiences because they are afraid of the consequences. I believe “fear” in the bible goes much deeper. The NRSV Study bible describes the “fear of the LORD” as a “reverence and awe; a prerequisite for wisdom.” In order to become wise, we must possess a godly fear of reverence and awe; something that is capable of bringing us to our knees. I find it interesting that when we are in complete awe and reverence for God, we start to truly hate evil in all its forms. When we fear God, we should hate what God hates. The problem may arise, however for some, as to what is evil? Evil for one person may not be the same for the next person. How can we learn to find out what the definition of evil might be? If we do not know what evil looks like, the proverbs often explain some of the various forms of evil, such as pride, arrogance, and perverted speech.

 

I think for someone just beginning to “fear the LORD,” a person can understand what some examples of evil can be just through reading the proverbs. For example in this proverb, we see that God hates pride, arrogance, a way of evil and perverted speech. It is so easy to become proud or arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with being proud about a successful exam or overcoming a difficult challenge. The problem arises when one begins to believe that they are better than someone else because they have something “better” than the other person. This person may begin to gloat about it, either openly or to themselves. Believers in the true God of Israel can become proud without even realizing it because through worshipping God in the right way, we get blessed. Often, we can begin to think that we were the source of our own resourcefulness without giving honor to God, who is our source! This is the danger of pride. We would rather worship the creature rather than the Creator (Rom1:25). It is terribly easy to worship the work of our own hands (Jer1:16)! Depending on the job atmosphere, there can be much competition between co-workers. Where does our desire to do more and outdo the competition come from? Yes it can come from a desire to do your best work (as it should be), but sometimes, this desire is pushed by the fact that our colleagues are inadvertently pushing us to “outdo” them. This is very unchristian, however, we often do it without realizing.

 

As for perverted speech, I believe this one can easily slip past our tongues without any recognition. Our society/generation does not think of how our speech can be perverted nor does it even understand what non-perverted speech sounds like. Many people on the street will swear without the slightest hesitation, even amongst those who are well educated. Most Christians I have met don’t swear but I have met a few. Some even admit to swearing at a cashier because they were overcharged for groceries! Many people don’t think about the very common expression “Oh my G-d” as a cuss word. Nonetheless, it is taking the name of God in vain and sometimes I even wonder, which god? Should we be calling on the name of a god whether biblical or not? God never asked for his name to be used because someone got so many new things on sale. I used to have problems with this expression. I even had to be careful with using “Oh my gosh” because I felt it was still the same and it wasn’t truly getting me to stop. It took time to stop using this expression, however, in time and along with thinking before speaking, I stopped using this expression. I give God the glory for helping me.

 

As for another example about perverted speech, I remember I was listening to a conversation amongst apparent Christians who had just listened to how we must be aware of how the biblical world views stand in direct opposition to the world. One of these Christians made a comment of a sexual nature to another who responded with “You’ll have to pay for that” as if she were a prostitute. Everyone laughed at her comeback, but is it truly funny? Should we be joking about the possibility that she would do what the other was asking for money like a prostitute? Interestingly enough, the person who responded with “You’ll have to pay for that” realized that this was probably not the most proper way to respond. The other person was also equally to blame, although he did not admit to any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, what struck me the most is how easily our speech can become perverted in this society. These ways of thinking and speaking are not of God. In the bible, James says “the tongue stains the whole body!”…it cannot be tamed it is “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (Ja3:6-8). Just as the “eye is the lamp to the body” (Luke 11:14) so also the tongue stains the body. Therefore, “the fear of the LORD is the hatred of evil,” comes in many sizes and shapes. Hatred for evil can be the pride, arrogance and perverted speech we may find in ourselves or our world. It can also be the world’s injustice. As for today, we must focus on our pride, arrogance and perverted speech. What kind of speech blesses our God the Father and our brothers and sisters in Christ? Once we have calmed our own pride and speech, we can hate the injustice rampart in our world, knowing that the Father too hates the evil ways of injustice. Help us to hate evil as we stand in fearful awe and reverence for our God. Gives us strength to condemn the evil we see in us and around us!

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August 19 2016 6 19 /08 /August /2016 12:58
How salty are you?

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltines be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor the manure pile; they throw it away” – Luke 14:34-35

NRSV

When I think of salt, I think of the time I had made a cake where I had completely forgotten to add the salt. When I realized that I had forgotten the salt, my cake was already in the oven. I was hoping that the other major ingredients, such as the sugar, would help my struggling cake. Sadly, the sugar alone did not help my cake; it was bland and had no taste. I wanted to throw out my cake, which I hate doing when one considers the cost and time it took out of my day to make a cake. Salt is very important! It gives things taste and brings out the seasonings of other ingredients. Ingredients that would normally be dull on their own are given a whole new meaning with just a little salt. As disciples of Christ, could we be considered to be God’s ongoing cake recipe? God is in the process of molding us into the image He had always intended for humans through the example of His son. In order to make a good cake, God gives us time in order to become His perfect cake. I can somehow see how God must feel when He puts time and effort into individuals (because He can see their potential) who don’t turn into a wonderful cake. He must feel disappointed sometimes with us. Only He knows who must be thrown out because they lack certain ingredients or they have too many impurities which prevents them from being a disciple of Christ.

 

When I first read this passage, I thought of the church. Interestingly, the NRSV Study Bible makes a comment about salt. It says that this passage is “a warning against lackadaisical discipleship. “Lackadaisical” means to lack enthusiasm and thoroughness. The Study Bible continues to say that “Ancient salt was not pure sodium chloride, so the other material in the salt could go bad and cause the salt to be no good.” After I read this interesting note on this passage, I thought about how the other materials in the salt can make the salt go bad. Could Christ be referring to how we as disciples can make ourselves “go bad” because of the other materials that can influence us in our daily lives? We must be reminded of “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor15:33). It is important to be constantly reflecting on all outside influences and comparing its value system with that Bible, otherwise, those bad influences may affect our salvation. Israel had been punished and exiled to Babylon for mixing the God of Israel with the surrounding pagan gods. The value systems of those pagan gods were not the same as the God of Israel. Solomon in all of his great wisdom, amassed great wealth, wives and concubines from the pagan nations around Israel. Solomon’s wives (or company) turned his heart from following the true God (1 K11:1-8). Could Solomon have lost his saltiness? Will he be found amongst those at the first resurrection of those in Christ at Christ’s return? We will not know, however, believers can lose their salvation (Heb10:26-29; 2Pet2:20-22).

 

There is the possibility that believers can lose their saltiness and it is possible that it cannot be restored. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phi2:12). We must look at ourselves first and then decide if we have any unhealthy influences that may make us lose our saltiness. We must also look at our church. Is there any “material” that may prevent us from becoming more holy? How do church members speak of one another or even to those outside of the church? The bible says we should “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men” (Titus 3:2). It also says we should humbly correct others (2Tim2:25) and expose unfruitful works of darkness (Eph5:11). Find out what is “acceptable to the Lord” (Eph5:10) and do not lose your “saltiness.” In other words, do not lose your enthusiasm and thoroughness for the Word of God. Let’s be enthusiastic for God’s word and thorough for true doctrine that will give us peace, length of days and long life (Pro3:2). Pure salt gives us and others the strength to leave behind negative ways of thinking and acting that are not healthy to our spiritual and physical lives. We are the “salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13) to a dying world. We can give this world hope for a better life now and in the future, but only if we are truly salty. May God grant us the vision to throw away the things that can make us lose our saltiness.

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July 27 2016 4 27 /07 /July /2016 22:34
The Eye is the lamp of the body

"Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness" (Luke 11:34).

Bible (NRSV)

I think as I reflect on this passage today, it reminds me of many other passages that focus on overall wholesome holiness for the physical and spiritual body. "Be holy for I am holy" (1 Pet.1:15) taken from Leviticus 11:44 just after God explains what foods are clean for consumption and unclean for consumption. Peter uses this passage in Leviticus to describe how believers should be holy in their conduct and to not conform to "former lusts." The eye is a very special and powerful organ; it can cause us to sin, however it is not the only organ of course involved in the various sins of this world. Jesus says that "if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matt. 5:29). Jesus also talks of cutting off the right hand as well, which should make everyone sit up straight in their chairs. Why would Jesus suggest something so extreme? Jesus wouldn't in fact ask me to literally pluck out my eyes and cut off my hand? It is not the actual eye, but the thing that is causing my eye to sin. The cause is the thing that I must cut in order to have a more powerful and fulfilling relationship with God the Father.

The eye is powerful; we use it to see our world and the various things that are in our world either for good or for bad. It must be said that if we didn't have eyes, we wouldn't know what we would be missing, however, God gave us eyes to see our world. Could God have known that humans would use their eyes to lust, to greed, or to think evil thought? I believe that it would be harder to lust after something that we can't see, however, these thoughts begin with the heart whether we have eyes or not (Matt.15:19). I believe that in the beginning, God made Adam and Eve perfect. They didn't know that they were naked, therefore, they could not use their eyes to lust after each other. It was only until after they ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil did they see that they were naked and felt ashamed. Why the shame unless it was not because of evil thoughts for one another? Therefore, we are capable of seeing with our eyes in a healthy manner because the first humans were capable before the fall. We can look at our world without desiring everything we see because God has given us His laws and Christ, the light of the world to help us overcome. We can use our eyes to say that something is evil or good, healthy spiritually or physically for our body. Our eye is the first organ to start an alarm system, such as "Hey, be careful." If our eyes are unhealthy or bad, our eyes won't give us that first warning before the sickness of sin moves onto another part of the body to make our body sicker and sicker. Our iniquities can separate us from God, so that He will not hear our prayers (Is.59:1-2). If our eyes are healthy, the whole body is healthy. It is the same for the body of Christ; if one member suffers, we all suffer (1 Cor.12:14-17). Every part of the body of Christ is important.

Therefore, are we using our first defence organ properly? Are we listening to what our eye has to tell us? Healthy eyes will make for a healthy body. The eye is the lamp of our body and it must "shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). The health of our body is dependent on our eyes. How does our body reflect the health of our eye? Does our body have self-inflicted marks? If our body does have self-inflicted marks, reflect on why you decided to place marks on your body. Does our body partake of ungodly activities or pleasures? Does our body have addictions that we cannot cut? Reflection on God’s word and prayer can help us to truly see the spiritual health of our bodies and lives. If we are willingly, God will open doors in order to help us escape our addictions, but first, let us first examine our eyes in order to determine the overall health of our body!

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