Receive Instruction

As we continue to look at seeking counsel this week, our Bible Journaling comes from Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old and foolish king, who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” (NASB) The Christian Standard Bible says it like this, “Better is a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer pays attention to warnings.”

Part of seeking counsel involves something on our part. Once someone gives us the counsel we are seeking, it is up to us to decide whether or not to receive their counsel. This involves discernment on our part. Is the person giving the information to us someone we can trust? If so, then it is up to us whether we will take what they tell us and use it.

My mother was an elementary teacher for 35 years. For most of those years she taught the gifted kids, but for a while she had a mixture of children who were extremely intelligent and ones who weren’t as bright. Grades ran the gamut, the straight A kids and the ones who were barely hanging on. In some instances, she had kids who were really smart, but for whatever reason, just didn’t apply or accept what she was trying to teach them. The ones who could have done better did not use discernment in receiving what she was teaching them. They didn’t want to be in school, they didn’t want to learn, and they decided they were not going to apply themselves in learning.

We can be just like those kids. If the information is from someone we aren’t sure whether or not to trust, then discernment and wisdom is needed. However, if the advice and counsel is from someone we respect and their ideas make a lot of sense, and we don’t take their advice, then we are like that foolish king in our verse today who won’t take instruction, and like those kids in my Mom’s class who refused to learn.

We can also be like those people when it comes to God’s guidance, instruction, and teaching. When we refuse to take God’s Word to heart and learn from it, we are in rebellion. Just like those kids in my Mom’s class, they rebelled against her in refusing to do the work, we can be stubborn and say “NO” to God in defiance or just decide to do it our own way. Most times that just gets us into trouble. Do we forget that God’s ways are the best for our lives, or are we actively defying God’s instruction? How foolish we are to ignore God’s leading and instruction!

I know in my own life there have been times when I verbally said, “No God, I don’t care what you say, this is what I want!” I found myself in a long time of digging myself out of a situation in which I should never have been. I had to learn the hard way, that my defiance and outright rebellion was going to take me in a path I didn’t want to go down. But, when I heed His voice, when I listen to instruction and follow obediently, then life goes a lot smoother. I begin to learn from Him when I follow His leading! Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Good words of advice!

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Seek Counsel

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” (KJV) The English Standard Version (ESV) says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” The Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “Without consultation and wise advice, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they are established and succeed.” When we are in the midst of carrying out plans we have made, making decisions, or even setting goals, having a sounding board, a counselor if you will, is always a good idea. Solomon says that without counsel our plans can fail.

Take for instance, building a house. When I lived in Montana, my husband and I built a house. We contacted a contractor (our counselor), we sat down and told him what we wanted, and my husband drew a rough draft of what the house should look like. Our contractor then took our ideas and drew out a blueprint from which he would be working. Without asking a lot of questions and seeking his advice on how best we should put this house together, how much it would cost, and other factors, we would never have had a successful project. We saw an example of that right in the subdivision where we built the house. A man who lived a few blocks from my parents’ house (they lived a block and a half away from us) started to build his house. He got as far as the foundation and he ran into problems. We aren’t sure exactly what the problem was, but it was evident he didn’t sit down and take into consideration all aspects of building his house. The project ended up being abandoned and he had to sell the property with a partial foundation on the lot. It was obvious that he didn’t rely on counselors to help him finish his house.

Just like building a house, we need counselors for every aspect of our lives. This is the time of year when people are making resolutions, making plans for the year, endeavoring to improve their outlook on life, their circumstances, etc. Sometimes, getting sound advice is needed. The first person to seek counsel from is God! He knows the plans He has for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) Ask Him if this is the direction He wants you to take. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of the (arrogant) fool (who rejects God’s wisdom) is right in his own eyes, But a wise and prudent man is he who listens to counsel.” (AMP) Once you hear from Him then seek out a person who may be able to help you accomplish the task God is leading you into.

In seeking advice, whether it be a mentor for something you want to improve on, or in deciding to launch out into new territory, it is best to find someone who is knowledgeable with the area you are researching. Find someone you trust. Discernment is always needed. Some people may not find it a high priority to keep things confidential, some may not want you to succeed and therefore give you wrong information. Especially in Spiritual matters, the guidance of your Pastor or a Spiritual mentor is a good beginning. In areas such as a business venture, a project you may want to begin, or self-improvement, finding someone who has experience in that area, can guide you, and warn you of pitfalls along the way, and wants you to succeed, is a good idea

A counselor can also help be an accountability partner. They can help keep you on track. They can warn you when it looks as if you are taking a wrong turn. I hold great store by accountability partners. They have your best interest in mind, and they want you to succeed in what you are trying to do. When I was trying to lose weight a few years ago, I was in a program that incorporated accountability partners. It was, in part, because of my accountability partner that I was able to succeed in losing the weight I needed to lose.

As we launch out into this new year, seeking counsel should be part of our resolution to be better or begin a new thing. Make your first Counselor, the Lord!

God of the Impossible

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Romans 4:21, “and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (NASB) This Scripture is about Abraham and the promise God gave him. To get background on the story we need to read Genesis 15 -18. God promised Abraham (Abram at the time) that he would have a son. Now to most people, that’s not a problem, but Abraham was 100 years old and his wife, Sarah (Sarai), was 90 and barren. But God did the impossible and they had their son of promise, Isaac.

There is great comfort in knowing that God does the impossible! It strengthens my faith and reinforces my trust in His ability to carry through on the promises He makes to me. When things look the most dismal, when all I see is impossible situations, God is there. The phrase, “But God” says it all. When logic tells us that nothing good can come out of this thing we’re going through, “But God!” When we are in despair and all we see is a deep, dark pit, “But God!” When we see NO answer in front of us, “But God!”

He is the answer and He provides the answers. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. The promises in His Word are for us and we can believe with our whole hearts that He will keep His promises. He proves it over and over again.

I can’t imagine what Abraham and Sarah must have thought. I mean, they are both well up in years, Sarah was well past the age of giving birth and had been barren her entire life, and yet God says they will have a son! The Bible says that when Sarah heard it, she laughed. (Genesis 18:12) I think I would too. I’d be thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Abraham believed God, and the book of Romans tells us that “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3 NASB) God’s promise was a covenant between Abraham and God (Genesis 15) God told Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky! God made a great nation from Abraham’s seed. As I was reading this passage, I saw that God told Abraham that his descendants would live in a land that was not their own and be enslaved (verse 13). They would have great possessions when their enslavement was over and the country who captured them would be punished by God. Then God gave the land we now know as Israel to Abraham and his descendants. That was a promise made to Abraham, and the fruition of that promise came about in 1948 as Israel became a nation. At the time, Jews had been escaping to the Promised Land, what we now know as Israel, to get out of the reach of the Nazis. Jews have been persecuted since the very beginning, and still are today. Their situation seems hopeless, enemies on all sides, the nations come against them…” But God!” They are His people and He protects them.

I love “But God” moments! It proves to me that He loves me, it proves that He knows just where I am and just what I’m going through, it proves that He will always have my back! He is the God of the impossible! Are you going through an impossible situation? Does the world seem to be at odds with you? Just remember, “But God!”

You Can Trust God’s Promises

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (NASB) I find so much comfort in reading this passage. God has made so many promises to us, and to know that He will do as He promises brings a sense of well-being, a sense that He is in control and will never go back on His word.

I was talking with my hubby about this passage and he relayed a story of something that happened when he lived in California. He had been offered a position as a maintenance man at a trailer park by a lady, and there was no contract drawn up, but an agreement was made by shaking hands. In my husband’s mind your word is your bond and should be taken as seriously as a contract. Well, a month goes by and he hears by way of the grapevine that he’s been let go and a relative of this lady has been put in the position. She never told him and so he confronted her. She gave some excuse and that was that. Well, evidently the relative didn’t work out because she came back to my hubby and asked if he would take the job again. Well, she had gone back on her word before and my husband wasn’t about to give her that opportunity again, so he said no because he couldn’t trust her. People will make promises and then not keep their word. But Moses writes that God is not man, He does not lie, and what He says He will do, He will do it.

Some people have problems in trusting God because of the actions of people. Especially if they have issues with their father. God is our Heavenly Father, and for us, our earthly father is supposed to be an example of our Heavenly Father. When that example is not a good one, then our view of God is skewed. Then it is hard to see God as a loving, Father who will keep His promises. Too many times those who have had that poor example have a hard time trusting. They can’t believe that what they are promised will come to fruition and that they will always be disappointed.

God keeps His promises. His love for us is so vast it is hard for us to comprehend, and because He loves us so much, He wants to provide for us in all ways. He promises good for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can trust Him, even when we don’t understand what is going on, when things are turned upside down, when it feels like we are standing in the middle of a hurricane, we KNOW we can trust Him, because as we look at how He has taken care of us in the past, we can see that His character is to be truthful, and to keep His promises.

Trust is a big issue for some people, I know for me, it is. If I don’t feel I can trust you, then I will be careful about what I tell you, I will watch closely at what you do to be sure that I will be protected. I don’t have that issue with God. I know I can always trust Him. I can trust His Word, I can trust His actions, I can trust everything about Him. I’ve seen Him work in my life in the past and He has always come through, even when I didn’t understand what He was doing at the time. I found that He always had my good in mind. He had a plan for me, and it was a good plan, even though I couldn’t see what the next step was, or how He was leading me. Even in the times when it felt like He was far away from me, He was there guiding my footsteps, holding my hand. I look back now and see His handiwork in it all.

Be encouraged dear reader, God can be trusted to keep His promises. Do you have family members far from God? God hears your prayers and He loves them more than you do. He is working in the background even when you can’t see it. (Isaiah 65:24) Trust Him. Are you going through a situation that seems as if there is no solution? He knows all about it and He is working in your favor. (Psalm 91:5) Trust Him. He loves you and He will see you through. Are you in a financial crisis? He knows all about it and He will provide because He has promised that He will. (Exodus 23:25) Trust Him. Have you wandered far from Him? He’s drawing you back to Himself. He loves you. (Ephesians2:4-5) You can trust Him!

Adopted into God’s Family

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (ESV) The thought that popped out at me in this passage was the idea of adoption. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection made the way for us to be adopted into God’s family.

Jesus came as a baby, fully human, to be our Sacrificial Lamb, to redeem us from the penalty of our sins. The verse says “when the fullness of time came…” At the right time, and in the right place, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. Jesus was fully God and yet He was fully human. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, humankind was under the law. God gave Moses the law so that we would be faced with the fact that we are not perfect, and can not fulfil the law, but God sent Jesus to rescue us from the penalty of not following the law. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God adopts us into His family. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12 KJV) Because of that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. We experience God’s grace and mercy because of our acceptance of His Son and His finished work on the cross.

Now, in the Old Testament, those who trusted and obeyed God, the Father, were accepted by God as His people. They were faithful to Him and worshipped Him. But they still had to offer sacrifices for their sins because Jesus had not yet come to take the penalty for their sins. Romans 9:4 says, “…Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” (NIV)

Once Jesus’ sacrifice was completed, the sacrifice of animals was no longer needed because He was the final sacrifice. When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He does just that, and we then become children of God through adoption.

Adoption is such an awesome thing. It takes a child who is without a family and makes them part of a family. By law, that child is a bonafide member of that family, they have the same rights legally as a child born into that family. Because of Jesus and what He did for us, we can be part of God’s family and become a child of God. We can share in the same rights that Jesus has. God doesn’t see our sin, but He sees Jesus’ shed blood covering our sins and we are made perfect because of His blood shed for us. Ephesians 1:5 says, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV)

I have a friend who has adopted several children. Those children are her kids! She sees no difference between her blood birthed children and her adopted ones. She loves them all equally. In God’s family, God sees us as His sons and daughters, there is no difference between Jesus and us…we are His! We have the same rights of sonship as our big brother, Jesus!

I am so grateful to God for adopting me into His family. I can go to my Abba Father anytime and talk to Him about my struggles, my joys, my anxieties, and those things I need His help with. Jesus’ birth and death has helped make all of that possible, and I love Him so much for what He has done for me!

Jesus, the Lamb of God

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (KJV) At first glance, this seems to be a strange verse to equate with Christmas, but when we really understand why Jesus came, it fits perfectly. Often, we don’t think about Christ’s sacrifice when we think about the Baby in the manger. However, the two are so interconnected that we really cannot separate them.

God had a plan set up to save us from the very foundation of the earth. He needed a way to deal with sin. There had to be a punishment for rebellion against Him, for after all, that is exactly what sin is…rebellion against God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV) Every single one of us has had rebellion in our hearts toward God. When we decide in our hearts to disobey God, there is a consequence, and with that consequence comes a penalty. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We cannot pay the penalty for our sin. We cannot work our way into salvation, we can’t buy our way into salvation, only through Jesus’ sacrifice are we redeemed, are we made pure. God requires a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, without sin, pure, and by the shedding of blood from that sacrifice. There was only one who could fulfil those requirements, and that was Jesus. Jesus, who was born of a virgin, the Holy Son of God, who walked this earth and experienced everything we do, and who knows just what we go through, yet He was perfect. The book of Hebrews says He experienced everything we do “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV)

The four Gospels look at Jesus from different vantage points. The book of Matthew shows Jesus as our King, the book of Mark views Him as the Servant, the book of Luke shows Him as the “Son of Man”, whereby Jesus shows His compassion toward those who are considered outcasts, and the book of John shows Jesus as the Son of God. All these attributes of Christ are given to us so that we understand more clearly Who He is, What He came to do, and Why He came to do it.

Without the Cross, Jesus’ birth is just another baby that was born. Without Jesus’ birth as the Son of God, His death on the Cross would just be another execution. The two are tied together. Jesus’ story is complete only when we include His miraculous birth and His redeeming death on the Cross.

Then, once we know and understand Jesus’ plan for us, we have a decision to make. What will we do with this information, what will we do with Jesus? We must choose to accept His loving sacrifice. He took the penalty for our sin to save us from having to meet that requirement of death for our sin. What better way to celebrate His birth than to accept Him as our Lord and Savior!

Dear reader, if you have never chosen to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, now is the perfect time! Just pray and ask Him to come into your heart, to be the ruler of your life, to forgive you of your sins, to cleanse you from all of your sin, past, present, and future, and then promise to allow Him to be the Master of your life, and to follow Him all the days of your life, serving Him in all that you do. My friend, He will do just that, and as He takes over, you will find peace, joy, and contentment.

Joseph – Obedience in Hard Circumstances

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Matthew 1:18-25. Today, we’re looking at just the birth of Jesus, not the shepherds or the wise men, but just the circumstances around His birth. The story is so familiar to most of us that I’m not going to include the passage here, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ birth was prophesied long before His birth. According to scholars, the book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century B.C. As I read our passage in Matthew today, I began to focus more on Joseph. We know so much more about Mary, but Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible just a few times, and then we hear nothing more about him. I couldn’t help wondering how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was going to have a baby. Here he is, engaged to Mary, they have been pure, and suddenly, she says she’s pregnant! I’m sure he had a myriad of questions and thoughts swirling around in his head. At last, he decides to divorce her quietly, so as not to bring her more embarrassment. I’m sure he had a hard time sleeping. God sees his confusion, his hurt, his unsettledness and reassures Joseph by sending an angel to confirm what Mary has told him, and to encourage him to go ahead and marry her. Matthew, the author of the book, confirms the prophesy made by Isaiah centuries before, “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” (verse 23)

The Bible says that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel told him. In the time of Jesus’ day, weddings were different than we know them. The Bridegroom, with his friends, would go to his beloved’s home in the evening and take her from her father’s house. The procession, with lots of singing and rejoicing, would go through the streets to his parent’s home where they would proclaim a blessing over the couple. There would be singing, dancing, lots of games, and a great party. The bride and her attendants were given a room at the parent’s home set up just for her. The following day was the wedding feast with a full day of partying. By evening, the groom comes and the wedding ceremony with vows takes place. Sometime in the evening the couple vanishes to be alone and consummate the marriage. However, the party is still going on for several days, and the couple didn’t have a honeymoon as we do now, they would join in the celebration for the remainder of the time of rejoicing. The Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus. (verse 25)

As I read about what Jewish weddings were like in Jesus’ day, I wondered, considering the circumstances, if there was any celebration. Did Joseph gather his friends and have a huge wedding celebration, or did he just marry her quietly? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that Joseph was honorable. It’s possible this was an arranged marriage between Joseph’s parents and Mary’s parents, we don’t know if they knew each other well or not. But what stands out to me is his obedience to God and His plan. He trusted God although he didn’t necessarily understand all that was happening.

Aren’t we like that at times? Circumstances around us have us swirling, sleepless nights, muddled thoughts, being unsettled, and not knowing what to do. Joseph is an example of one who put their full trust in God and His plan, even though he didn’t understand the where’s or why fore’s. Like Joseph, we are to trust God with the situation and the outcome. As hard as that is, we must remember that God’s plan is always perfect and while we can’t see that now, we can trust Him that He has the best in store for us and He is with us. Even Jesus’ name tells us that. The prophet prophesied that His name was to be called “Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” Jesus means Immanuel. He is with us, through good times and bad, through struggles and joys, daytime and night. Joseph was obedient, in everything God told him to do, up to and including, naming Jesus, because he trusted God’s plan.