Category Archives: Wisdom

Motives

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives.” (Proverbs 21:2)

 

It amazes me that there are so many of us, who profess to be Christinas, who continue to live their lives according to their standard of living.  They live a selfish, self-centered, self-serving life that excludes God.  Today’s verse is one of those verses we love to hate because it tells a truth about ourselves we’re not willing to admit, and a truth about God we don’t want to accept.  Let’s break it down, and take a closer look at it.

  1. “All…” – the word, “all”, in this verse, is an all-inclusive word. It means, with no exclusions, or exceptions.
  2. “a man’s ways…” – this includes all we think, all we do, and all we say, with no exceptions.
  3. “seem right to him…” – selfish, self-serving pride convinces us that everything we think, do, and say, is right – that there is no wrong in us, so much so that we often pick a fight when others disagree with us.
  4. “but the Lord evaluates the motives.” –  God is our Lord.  He, alone, has the right, power, and authority to examine, evaluate, judge, and give us our just rewards for what motivates us to think, do, and say what we do.  Whatever He finds to be our motivation, He will give us our just rewards.  Take a look at what He says about us:

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve (Jeremiah 17:9-10).”

This is the part that we don’t want to accept about God.  There are many of us who truly believe that, because we are under grace, God will not judge, or punish us, for our sin.  Friends, when God said this, He was talking to His chosen people, the Israelites.  As Christians, we are also His people, adopted into His family through faith in what Jesus did on the cross for us.

God, through the Apostle Paul, says:

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).”

Everything we think, everything we do, and everything we say must honor God. The only way to truly honor God is to strive to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands.  Now, stop for a moment and ask yourself if your the motivation for the things you think, say, and do are to love and obey God, or to continue living according to your own agenda for your life.

So, then,
– how will we obey today’s Scriptures?
– With whom will we share today’s lesson?
– With whom will we share the story of our salvation, and the story of what Jesus did for us?
In Christ’s love,
Phil

Test

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

The book of 1 John was written to address several problems with believers.  One of those problems was the preaching and teaching of false prophets, especially those teaching  against the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus.  This is confirmed in verses 2 and 3:

“This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now (1 John 4:2-3).”

There are many religious leaders out there who claim to be Christians, yet deny the incarnation of God in Christ.  According to God in verse 2 and 3, those who deny His incarnation are false prophets, and are an anti-christ because the Spirit of God (Spirit of Truth) is not in them, but the spirit of deceit.

In verse one, God, through the Apostle John, tells us that we are not to believe everything we hear from our religious leaders because they are fallible human beings.  God Himself warns us about human nature.  Here’s what He says about us,

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve (Jeremiah 17:9-10).”

This is why we must test everything any religious leader, or teacher, by comparing it with what God’s Word actually says.  Here in is the problem, though.  Most Christians do not want to take the time to read and study God’s Word.  They just want to go to church, sit down, and open their mouths, like little birds, to be fed and don’t even know what kind of poison they’re being fed.

So, how do we recognize these false prophets? Jesus also warns us about false prophets and tells how we can spot them:

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).”

A false prophet is rarely known just by their false teachings, but also by their lives.  If they’re living contrary to the Word of God, they are false prophets.  We must always be aware so that we do not fall prey to them.

So, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re under the teachings of a false prophet.  If you are, run, and find another Bible believing church that will teach you how to study the Bible correctly, so the you can know the truth, and obey it.

In Christ’s love,

Phil Covone

Gathered Together

Gathered Together

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”” (Matthew‬ ‭18:20‬ ‭HCSB‬‬)

This is a familiar verse of Scripture that is often taken out of context and misunderstood. As with all other Scriptures, it is important to know the context in which this verse was written before we try to interpret it.

First, we need to know that Jesus was teaching about church discipline and trying to restore a person who has sinned against another, in the church. Here’s what Jesus says:

““If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you (Matthew‬ ‭18:15-17‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).””

Jesus is teaching us that, if there is a person(s) within a body of believers that has sinned against another believer and refuses to ask for forgiveness, or repent, that person must be expelled from the group. He also says that the group must not hang around with the person who was being disciplined, outside the group. Is this extreme? Yes, it is, but it must be taken in Love, with the pure intent and purpose of restoring that person back to the church. The reason the person must be expelled from the church is best described this way, that if we leave a rotten apple in a basket of apples, the good apples will begin to rot as well.

However, this is not a decision that can be taken lightly. This is where today’s verse comes in, starting with verse nineteen:

“Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven (Matthew‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).”

Here are two things that Jesus wants us to know before we make the decision to exile someone from the church.

1. The church must be in agreement – all the members of the body of believers (church) must be in complete agreement that something must be done about the unrepentant person.
2. The church must agree to pray before acting – we must agree to bring the matter before the Lord, before we act.
3. Only when we are in complete agreement will God answer our prayers. Jesus gives us that assurance.

Now we come to today’s verse and here’s what Jesus tells us:

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them (Matthew‬ ‭18:20‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).””

Here are three things Jesus wants us to know from this verse:

1. There must be unity – those two or three who gather together must be of one mind, and one spirit. There cannot be disagreement among those who gather.
2. The gathering must be done with the purpose of bringing honor to Christ, our Lord – there cannot be a personal agenda, by anyone involved in the decision making process.
3. Jesus will intervene – only when the conditions above are met, and we seek Jesus’ decision, will Jesus be with those who are gathered, and will help them make the right decision.

Although this passage is about church discipline and restoration, it is my humble opinion that this same process can be used in our homes, among friends, at work, and even at school. Every decision we make must be Christ’s decision, lest we be wrong and have a devastating, negative effect on others.

In Christ’s love,

Phil

What Are You Seeking?

The fact is that, as human beings, we all need food, water and a way to protect our bodies from the elements to survive.  These are the basic things we need to continue living on this earth.  In Genesis 1-2, God makes this fact perfectly clear.  In Genesis 3, however, God tells us that, because of our sin, getting our basic needs was going to be very difficult, and costly (Genesis 3:8-19), and ever since then, it has been.  We have to work long and hard to get what we need, and often times, at a great cost.

But, have you noticed that when we do get what we need there is this sense that we have gotten is not enough?  That, no matter how hard we work, and how much we get and/or achieve, it’s just not enough?  There even comes a time in which we begin seeking that missing piece of our lives that we feel will make our lives complete, and when we can’t find it at work, we look for it in relationships, alcohol, sex, drugs and many other places and things which leave us just as incomplete as we’ve always been.  Is this where you are?  Are you seeking that missing piece in your life?

Jesus has what you are seeking.  Look at what He says,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you (Matthew 6:33).”

God is willing to provide for all our spiritual, physical and emotional needs, but with certain conditions.  Let’s look closely at what Jesus is teaching us in this very important verse.

First come the conditions for providing our needs:

  1. “But seek first…” – Jesus teaches us what must be our top priority search.  Nothing else can take it’s place. Then, He teaches us what we are to seeking above all else.
  2. “the kingdom of God…” – First, we must seek the kingdom of God.  This means that,  as Christians, our top priority must be to seek to spread the good news of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for the entire world, to the entire world.  As Christians, this is our main job, it is in our job description (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
  3. “and His righteousness,” – Second, we must seek to conform personal conformity to His standard of righteousness, or holy living.  In other words, we must conform to His moral standards and not seek to live according to the world’s moral standards.  We must summit to His Lordship over our lives and strive to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands.

Now come the promise of His provision.

  1. “And all these things…” – Jesus wants us to know that He will provide everything we need to survive in this world, and to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.  Notice that He says, “all”.  He will not keep anything from us.
  2. “will be provided fr you.” – He, Jesus, is the source of our provision.  He already knows all that we need and He is ready and willing to provide it all for us.

Look at what Jesus says,

“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you (Matthew 6:31-33).”

So, what are you seeking?  What drives you, or motivates you each day?  How’s life?

In Christ’s love.

Phil

Are We Wise?

“Who is wise and has understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness.” (James 3:31)

We all seem to want love, peace, and joy in our personal lives and around the world, but we all want to do it our way.  In fact, we’ve been trying to have peace in our lives, and even bring peace into the world our own way, according to our own beliefs about ourselves, for thousands of years.  So, how has that worked out for us, thus far?  Seriously, is our world today any safer, more peaceful, and joyful than in the past?  If we are as wise as we think we are, wouldn’t things be better than they are?

Christians, how about us?  Are we as wise as we think we are?  For hundreds of years we’ve been working under the assumption that we are as wise as God and don’t really need Him.  I can understand secular people thinking this way, but us?  If we are as wise as we think we are, then why is secularism growing at a faster pace than Christianity?  Could it be that we’re not out teaching the world the truth about God through word and deed?  Have we fallen into believing the lie that people are one day going to start coming to our temples, on their own, looking for God?   Could it be that people are not interested in knowing anything about God because they don’t see the truth about God in us and through us?

God delivers a blow to our egos when He reveals the truth about us, which we don’t like and do our best to ignore:

“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

There are some pastors and Christian leaders who, because of their scholastic degrees, believe and think more of themselves than they ought to, and because of that, have strayed from the truth of who God is and what He expects from us.  God, through the Apostle Paul, tells us:

“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one (Romans 12:3).”

Pride, arrogance, and narcissism has taken the place of wisdom in the hearts and minds of many of our pastors and Christian leaders. This has had a huge negative effect on our society.  We Christians have made ourselves irrelevant in today’s society because society does not see Jesus in us.  When they look at us they see too much of themselves and not enough of Jesus.

If we are as wise as we think we are, and our degrees tell us we are, we could not build temples big enough to hold all the new and existing believers, and secularism would be diminishing instead of growing.

True wisdom is living according to God’s standard; in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands.  What does your conduct say about you?

In Christ’s love,

Phil