Have you ever asked the Lord to help control the thoughts of your mind? I have. And, guess what: It didn't work. I continued to have thoughts that I knew were not pleasing to Him. In a previous blog, Wisdom And Understanding, I explained that our minds are a part of our flesh. We were born with them. They were given to us as a gift in order to make decisions and choices as we go through our lives. God has given us our minds in order to have the freedom of choice. We have free will as it is called and that will is a decision that is made (most of the time) after careful consideration within the mind. It is after that careful consideration we say to ourselves, "I WILL ..." The reason I mention most of the time is because I often make decisions WITHOUT THINKING. And you probably do too.
At our church we are currently working our way through the Book of First Peter. In the first chapter Peter speaks on this subject in verse 13, where he says, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind,.." In other words, think about these things he is addressing. His audience was going through tough times and he wanted them to be encouraged by looking at the Big Picture of all the good things we have available through God today and in the future. He points out that they have a choice of whether to dwell on the present miserable conditions or to dwell on the things God has for us now and forever. But, the choice was up to the folks he was writing to. It was not up to Peter and it was not up to God. But Peter, writing on behalf of God, was doing what he could to influence their thinking on the matter.
I realize there may be some folks who disagree with my statement, "The One Thing God Cannot Do." After all, we find the words, "For with God nothing shall be impossible," in Luke, chapter one, where the angle Gabriel was speaking to Mary. Of course, you will want to look closely at the entire chapter where we see two different thinking processes taking place at the appearance of Gabriel: Zacharias made a choice to argue with him and could not speak again until the baby John was born. I am supposing that he always thought twice after that when confronted with a Spiritual decision. God always has His ways of guiding our thoughts.
But it is true if you "think" about it. He ALWAYS gives us free will - free choice. If He were not to do that He would not be glorified by our choice to follow and obey Him. I realize that He has the option to do things in our lives to influence our decisions on a matter. He has done that for me many, many times. And I'm sure, if you are close to Him you can also name the times He has done that for you. There are many instances in the Bible where we see Him doing just that. The most humorous example is in Numbers 22 where a donkey speaks to Balaam, trying to change his mind about going to help the Moabites. Our Lord will always nudge us in the direction He wants us to go. And, if we, by chance, become so stubborn and stiff-necked in our refusal He has ways of dealing with that also. Proverbs 29:1, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
God loves us so much and is so patient and caring. He watches over us minute by minute throughout each day. His desire is for us to make all the right choices that will be pleasing to Him. Sometimes I am sure I disappoint Him, but it is the desire of my heart to keep His Will on my mind continually. I hope you have that same desire. I had freedom of choice back in 1951 on whether to raise my hand at a billy Graham campaign and show my desire and decision to place my trust in Jesus. I still had that same freedom of choice this morning, as I awoke and opened my eyes, as to whether I would serve Him today. And so did all of us. It may even be a good idea to make a note or a plaque to hang on the bedroom wall with the words, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." . . . Just to jog our minds. Because it's up to us - Not God.
As simple as 1,2,3 -- Proverbs 1 : 23 -- Get it? OK, I'll move on now.
As I have said many times, I really find a lot of GOOD STUFF in the Book of Proverbs. There was a time in my life where, for several years I made it a point to read one chapter each day from this book. It worked out so that I read through the book once each month. I would suggest reading a chapter of Proverbs each day for anyone who is looking for some way to spend time reading their Bible. Another book I used to read on a daily basis was Revelation. I am still reading it but not as regularly as I once did. One very good reason to read the Book of Revelation is because God makes a promise of blessing in the very first chapter and the third verse: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." But let's get back to what I was saying about the Book of Proverbs:
As many times as I have read it over the years it seems that I wasn't ready for today's scripture reference until now. Because as I read it recently it was if it was printed in bright red and twice the font size: "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you."
This piece of scripture also turns out to contain words of promised blessing from the Lord. It is slightly different from the promise in Revelation which requires us to read and "hear" and "keep". Here in Proverbs we simply need to "Turn" at His reproof. So let's take some time to examine these few words "Turn," and "Reproof."
Turn should be fairly easily understood to most Christians who have an understanding of the word, repent. To repent means to make some kind of adjustment. Sometimes it means to turn around 180-degrees and go the opposite direction, but not all the time. In-fact I believe that most of the time it simply means what it says here in Proverbs; to TURN, as if in "Turn up the volume." or "Turn at the next corner." or, it could mean the words of that old song, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus." But, however the Lord means it when we read it He gently reminds us of what He wants it to mean to us at that moment. It means to Change something in our life. And we generally know exactly what it is that needs changing. But of course that may depend upon just how close we are to Jesus at the time. That brings us to the next word, "Reproof."
If we ARE close to the Lord at that time we will likely hear, and recognize His soft, gentle nudging on our heart. But what if we have drifted far away from that relationship we once may have had? That reproof may not come so soft and gentle. Because He knows we would never recognize His voice or even give any thought to it. In those cases He may use any variety of reproofs. I am sure He has an unending supply of methods that He has used on backsliders over the years. He may use the words of a preacher in church. He may use the words of a child as he asks, "Daddy, why are you acting like that?" He may use a supervisor at work as he threatens the loss of a job if things don't change. He may use a financial disaster in one's life, or an automobile accident. I don't need to continue the list as I think we all have seen examples of how God's heart's desire is simply to get our attention. He loves us so much He will do whatever He needs to do to bring us back under His wing, where the blessings are found. And that brings us to the rest of today's scripture: "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you."
Wherever we are in our relationship with Him, IF we will simply TURN at His reproof He will POUR OUT HIS SPIRIT unto us. Oh, that all of us who name the name of Christ could experience the fullness of joy and peace that comes unto us when we know we have been anointed by the presence of God's Holy Spirit. I cannot think of any other blessing that God could give us than to draw us together with Him, so close that we can "feel" His presence. There is no way to describe the "feeling" that comes with that. "But WAIT! There's More," Look at what happens next as a result of our Turning.
He MAKES KNOWN HIS WORDS unto us! I have to confess that there are times in my life where I sit early in the morning reading my Bible and just don't seem to be getting anything out if it. BUT - There are other times when I cannot read through just one chapter because there are so many wonderful revelations blossoming forth from those pages. To me that is pretty exciting. And, like the title of this blog says, "It's As Simple As One - Two - Three." Yes; it is simple to understand the principle. But, it is not always easy to make that TURN. Turning means to change something, and many times it just seems too difficult to make that change. I know that, just as well as every other born-again believer knows that. And it may be OK for us to resist making the change today. But keep this in mind as you make your decision: His reproof will always be in love. And if today's blog happens to be the reproof you need, please make the turn. Only the Lord knows what the next reproof may turn out to be for you.
We all can probably identify easily with today's scripture reference. As a GOOD Christian, we generally try to live our daily lives doing what is right in the sight of the Lord. Sometimes we slip up or stumble but it truly is our heart's desire to do right in His sight. And as I try to help raise my four-year-old grandson and teach him to behave properly I also try to help him understand that God is ALWAYS looking down on us and watching what we are doing. My grandson loves to hear the story of Jonah and how he decided to go to Tarshish because that sounded like a lot more fun than Nineveh. But Jonah forgot that God is always watching (Jonah 1:3, But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; . . .)
Today's scripture comes from the story of Amaziah who was the king of Judah for 25 years. The Bible doesn't give us a whole lot of details of all that happened during those 25 years but we do know he tried to do right in the sight of the Lord. In other words, he knew what he should do to be right with God, just as we should also know and do what will please the Lord. One of my daily prayers is that I and all other Christian believers in this country will live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. The reason I began praying that prayer years ago is because I believe that kind of living will most likely bring God's blessing upon our country.
Not being a Bible scholar I am guessing that the following piece of scripture picks up his story somewhere near the end of his reign: (1 Chronicles 25:14, Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them.) I believe this took place near the end of his life because the remaining verses in that chapter speak of how he seemed to self-destruct.
Now, it is easy for us to read of how he put other gods before his God, and began to crash and burn. And then we go on to read the next chapter which covers the life of the next king, Uzziah. And, that is what we often do as we are reading scripture, especially if we are working our way through the Old Testament. But I believe that every verse in God's word was written to ME and YOU. And if that is so we need to stop and think about what we have just read. HE PUT OTHER GODS BEFORE HIS GOD. It kind of reminds me of when we sit in church and the preacher is speaking of something that people need to repent from - and we can ALWAYS think of some OTHER guy who needs to hear this. Now the Lord just may be using that preacher to speak to our own hearts, but His words may likely go in one ear and out the other if we have been doing what is right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.
So, what does God mean when he speaks of a perfect heart? And, the answer is: "I don't know." But I do know that just trying to do right in the sight of the Lord describes a lot of Christians I have known. And even I could see that their hearts didn't match their actions. At the very center of their hearts I think the Lord could probably find other gods. They may not have even been bad gods but their importance ranked much higher than that of the Living God. And maybe their lives were not headed for destruction but neither were they bound for the blessings of God. (Mark 4:23,24 - If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.) I guess you could say that they lived their lives according to Jonah's principle that "Tarshish sounds like a lot more fun than Nineveh."
We truly need to examine our lives on a daily basis and ask ourselves, "Am I just doing this because I know God is watching?" or "Will God bless me more if I do this or that?" or "Am I living this Christian life in order to (selfishly) get more from God?"
The bottom line is: "Do I have a heart-to-heart, living relationship with the Living God?" And, if that is not the case then I need to make some changes. I may or may not be headed down the same path as Amaziah but I am sure to be missing out on the good things God has to give me. We all recognize that sometimes change is not easy. That is because change is really what the Bible calls repentance. But that may be just what you need today. And, the easiest way to begin is by simply asking Him for the help you need to get to where He wants you to be in that relationship. And the interesting thing is, when we look for His help - He will help.