Rally Right – Proverbs 16

Part 1

Prov 16-3
I was watching the news this morning.  How depressing, so I switched to Facebook.  Not much better.  If you are like me you don’t need negativity in your life, you want something positive to cling to.  I choose to not find my joy in the news of today but in the wisdom of God.  Proverbs 16 really spoke to me today because of a few verses that really caught my eye.
Proverbs 16:1-4
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil.
 
What really spoke to me about these verses is
1.  In verse 1 it says “the plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD”  What this tells me is human responsibility is always subject to God’s absolute sovereignty
2.  Verse 2-While man can be self deceived God determines his true motives.
3.  Verse 3-In the sense of both total trust and submission to the will of God, He will fulfill a person’s righteous plans.
4.  Verse 4-The wicked will bring glory to God in the day of their judgment and punishment.
 
Do you see a pattern here?  The pattern is that you have a responsibility to find the right path and walk in it.  God will direct you to it.  If you choose to ignore it you will be corrected.
 
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.
 
Are you making a choice?  Don’t let someone make it for you.  Rally right! 
God bless!
I am praying for you.
Pastor Andy Cisneros
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Suffering!

Romans 4-7

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Wednesday, June 14

I really don’t like tribulations but I do like what they produce in my life.  When I think about the hard times that I have been through, I see how God proved himself to me over and over again.  It is those times that have built my faith in an invisible God.

 

Romans 5:1-4

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

 

Looking back, the trials and tribulations that I have suffered were well worth it.  Of course, at the time, in the midst of the storm, I was filled with angst and anxiety.  What often helped me was prayer.  I know my limitations and how powerless I am but God has no limits and He intervenes on our behalf.  Now when I look back at those hard times, I don’t feel the sting of stress but I see the power of perseverance!  I persevered with prayer and God answered me.  Whatever the situation was, God helped me and my faith grew stronger and stronger each time.  This helped me to mature as a believer and it changed my character for the better.

 

I also see, as I reflect back, the strength I have gained from seeing God prove himself time and again, and knowing and believing that the promises He has made will come to pass. This is hope.  This hope is what helps us to push through the trials and not give up.  We have hope that God will hear our cry, incline His ear to our prayers, and touch our lives.  I am reminded of the section in James where it talks about joy in tribulation…what??  That can’t be right, can it?

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

I will be completely honest.  I am not there yet.  I do not view trials with joy, not even in the slightest.  I wish I could encounter a trial with a smile and look forward to what it will produce in me.  I only smile when it is over and some time has passed and then the joy part sets in.  So, I have some work to do and I am sure that I will have plenty of opportunities to get better at this.

 

This whole section of scripture we read today is also about faith…each trial and tribulation has strengthened my faith.  Even when my faith was shaken, I came out the other side stronger.  My brother John and his wife Grace, almost 9 years ago, found out they were expecting a baby.  We were so excited!  Early on in the pregnancy, they found out there were some complications, all was not right.  We quickly went from excited to shaken and scared.  This doesn’t happen to us, this could not be.

 

My mom, myself, and Grace decided that we would pray together every day until the baby was born.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  I had never prayed so diligently before this.  We were certain God was going to perform a miracle.  Grace felt God was leading her to name the baby Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was born and we did not get the miracle we prayed for…in fact his condition was worse than we expected and he would continue to have more challenges as he grew.  This shook our faith and tore us up inside.  I won’t go through all the questions I hurled at God and the sorrow we felt but I will say, that through it all, God was with us.  Jeremiah may not be like everyone else, but he is a miracle and he has given our family such joy.  In the end, my faith is stronger because I know that we live in a broken world and that bad things happen…even to us.  But, then I think of this scripture:

 

Isaiah 35:6

Then the lame will leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.

For waters will break forth in the wilderness

And streams in the Arabah.

 

One day, all will be made right and we just need to have faith.  Faith to keep going, to tackle each trial with hope and perseverance and that will mold our character for the better.  Take some time to reflect on your life and your hard times.  What did they produce in you?  Do you have a stronger appreciation of the hope we have because of your trials?

This is Jeremiah.  He is full of joy, laughter, and kindness.  He is nonverbal, has low tone, and other issues but one day, when our Lord returns, he will run fast like the wind and talk up a storm.

jeremiah

– Ruth Finnegan

(Photo Credit: http://www.godswordimages.com/wallpaper/hope/romans-5-3-5/)

JOY!

Acts 13-16

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Friday, June 9

I love listening to missionary stories.  I love hearing how bold men and women have carried the good news of God’s love and plan of salvation to others, sometimes meeting with great success, eager ears, and saved lives, while other times being faced with disappointment, ridicule, shunning or great danger.  The book of Acts delivers all this and more as the great missionary Paul along with Silas, Barnabas, John Mark and others worked tirelessly to teach, preach, baptize and encourage churches and individuals through many towns and countries – growing the Kingdom of God.

One word that caught my attention in these chapters was JOY.  Acts 13:52 records, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Sounds great, doesn’t it!!   Things must have been going very well for our faithful missionaries to be experiencing such JOY.  But, wait, what were the verses just previous . . . “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.  They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.  So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium.” (13:50-51).  Trials, persecutions, and hardships, being expelled, cast out – these can easily bring up lots of human emotions.  Anger, rage, depression, hopelessness, fatigue, giving up.  But instead it says the disciples were filled with JOY – and with the Holy Spirit.  That is the joy that I want to have.   A deep joy that comes not from everything going as planned, but from knowing you are doing the Father’s Will – even when it is hard, even when it hurts.  A joy that comes hand in hand with His Holy Spirit.

 

JOY is used again in Acts 16:34 – this time at a truly JOYOUS occasion.  “The jailer…was filled with JOY because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”  Can you imagine the scene – middle of the night, jailer hears singing from the cell as Paul and Silas praise God and pray.  Then – EARTHQUAKE!!!!  Prison doors thrown open and the jailer prepares to kill himself, since he would be executed if any of his prisoners ever escaped, and what prisoners wouldn’t escape if the prison doors were thrown open.  But then a shout is heard, “Don’t harm yourself!  We are all here!”” (16:28).  The astounded jailer needs to know more about these men and the Jesus they profess.  Paul and Silas gladly teach – and baptize – the changed jailer and his family.  The jailer takes them into his home and gives the missionaries a meal.  And there is JOY.  The baptism of a new believer is certainly one of the most joyful events.  But, what events were necessary to proceed this baptism?  In this particular case, the jailer would not have heard the gospel message if it weren’t for several catastrophes and trials: an earthquake, a mob attacking Peter & Silas (because they had healed a slave girl) which led to them being stripped and severely beaten and thrown in jail.  And, even then, if Peter and Silas had reacted differently to these crisis situations (perhaps with anger and selfishness rather than with praise and joy), the jailer would most likely have committed suicide instead of asking how to be saved.

I don’t know what you are going through today.  But, how can you face it with praise and joy and the Holy Spirit?  It just might lead to the saving of a life – maybe your own, and maybe somebody else’s.

 

-Marcia Railton

 

 

Even in the Midst of the Heartbreak

Lamentations 4-5

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Saturday, March 18

Jeremiah is recounting a lot of the rough times that Judah had faced. At the end of this desperate passage (in chapter 5), Jeremiah asks God to restore the people of Judah. I love, though, that even in the midst of the heartbreak, he doesn’t forget to praise and adore God:
 
19 But Lord, you remain the same forever!
    Your throne continues from generation to generation.

Then Jeremiah is raw and honest with God again about his frustration:
20 Why do you continue to forget us?

    Why have you abandoned us for so long?
But he is still hopeful and believing in God and his promises:

21 Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again!    Give us back the joys we once had!
Jeremiah included praise and petition in an honest prayer to God. I know that sometimes I feel silly being “honest” with God, letting Him know what I am really thinking… but he is GOD, and He already knows all my thoughts and feelings! We can with confidence humbly pray to our Lord and offer our requests and concerns, making sure to give thanks and praise to Him. There are a lot of good books to read on prayer. (My most recent favorite is “Fervent” by Priscilla Shirer.) I encourage you to read up… and of course, pray up! That is my personal challenge for myself and for you! Will you join me?! Here are a few verses on which to meditate as you focus on seeking God today:
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.verseoftheday.com/en/09212015/)

Even When It Looks Like Chaos

Jeremiah 44-45

Jer 44

Monday, March 13

Jeremiah went to Egypt and he continued sharing God’s messages to the people, who were worshipping the Egyptian gods. Jeremiah warned them that God was upset with them and they would be punished for their sins, but they didn’t believe him. However, because of their sin, the very things they went to Egypt to escape – war and peril – would follow them to Egypt.
Jeremiah’s secretary Baruch was having trouble dealing with all this turmoil, but God had a message for him too (in chapter 45):
“But God says, ‘Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck, and what I’ve planted I’m about to rip up. And I’m doing it everywhere—all over the whole earth! So forget about making any big plans for yourself. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you alive through the whole business.” (The Message) 
Baruch had a lot of other things he would rather be doing with his time than wading through the chaos that was going on among the people. It is not known exactly to what he was aspiring – power, fame, fortune – but he was weighed down by all that was going on that prevented his desires from coming to fruition. God provided him some encouragement and reminded Baruch that He has a plan and is in control, even when it looks like chaos.
 There have been many times in my life when I wish I could have some of the “Back to the Future” movie magic in real life – not to relive the 1980s fashion that I remember from my childhood, but to experience the time travel feature! Sometimes, we just don’t want to deal with or sort through the mess in which we find ourselves. I’m sure Baruch would have liked to travel through time and just have the whole terrible experience be over.
Life sometimes throws us hard balls, and it can be difficult to find joy in the journey. But it is important to remember that even in the hard times, God is still in control. Pray with me to have an open heart to see what God might be teaching us through difficult times, and to “be full of joy in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4) even in the midst of our undesirable circumstances, seeking and praising Him through every moment of life.
-Rachel Cain
(Photo Credit: http://www.quotescodex.com/why-provoke-me-to-anger-with-what-your-hands-have-made-burning-incense-to-other-gods-in-egypt-where-you-have-come-to-live-you-will-destroy-yourselves-jeremiah-448-295864/)

God Will Come

Isaiah 35-37

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Wednesday, February 15

Today’s reading is split into two sections. The first is carrying over from what we’ve been reading earlier this week and the second is the start of a war story (chapter 36). I want to leave the war story for tomorrow once we’ve read more of it so for now let’s look at the cheerful words in chapter 35!

 

The words in verses 3-7 are just beautiful. Every problem you’ve ever had, every disease will be cured because “God will come” (35:4). When God comes to save us, even the most barren of places will have reason to be happy. It says that the desert will be glad. Even if you’re in a place where you feel like there’s nothing going right, your burning sands will become a pool of refreshing water.

 

It seems like these days, there’s always someone or something trying to trip us up. Those things are the lions. The day is coming when those beasts won’t be found anymore. They won’t be able to get on the path that we choose to take. No more running, only joy and laughter.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

(Photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/isaiah-34-and-35/)

The Full Gamut

Psalm 79-84

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Sunday, January 8

In one of my favorite books, one character is shocked that someone could feel so much emotion at the same time. This leads him to say “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.” This comment makes his friend (a girl), chidingly reply “Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have”.
At certain times or in certain churches, it feels like there is only one acceptable way to come to God, only one emotion that is allowable before the Almighty. There was a Baptist church that I visited in South Carolina that was grim and dark and full of hellfire preaching. It seemed that they believed only sorrow and repentance were acceptable before God. Other churches demand happiness, chipper-ness, cheerfulness; no matter what are your actual day-to-day circumstances, put on a smile (or else).
However, God doesn’t demand that from his people. As you read today’s reading, you will be greeted by the soaring highs of Psalm 81 (v1 “Sing for joy…shout in triumph”) and 84 (v12 “Happy is the person who trusts in You, Lord of Hosts!”). Approaching God with joy and shouting is something God admires and inspires. But this is not the only way the authors write these psalms. Psalm 79:5 reads “How long, Yahweh? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy keep burning like fire?” These words are full of sorrow and pleading. It is what the broken, the hurt, the oppressed cry out to God, and it is in the inspired writing of the Psalms. But the very next verses give us EVEN more emotions, namely anger. “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that don’t acknowledge You,” because they have devastated your people. Normally we think anger is wrong; no ifs, ands, or buts. However, the inspired author is allowing his anger at the unjust system of the world, the anger at the sins that people do to one another, to be expressed to God.
If you are always happy, awesome! I’m usually a pretty happy guy myself. But if you experience emotion like a human, and if you experience some right side-by-side, the psalms provide avenues to express yourself to God and prove that you are not alone. God doesn’t demand that you come to him in only one particular way. Instead, he invites you to come as you are.
-Jake Ballard
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Jake Ballard is a pastor of Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, where he lives with his wife, Amber and daughter, Melody Grace. He is a gamer (board, card, video, etc.), a geek (currently watch Star Trek: Deep Space 9) and a student. He is in his third year studying to receive his Master’s of Divinity at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, which he hopes to complete in May 2018. For questions, comments or game or show recommendations, contact him at  jakea.ballard@yahoo.com.
(Psalm 80 photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/psalm-80-reverse-parallelism/)