by Steve McCranie | Sep 19, 2015
The following are a few passages that specifically spoke to me this morning. Two great truths and a prayer.
First, the prayer:
Lord, help me listen to only Your voice and not blindly forge ahead in my own so-called wisdom.
Proverbs 19:21 – There are many plans (or, thoughts, intentions) in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel (or, advice, plan, purpose)— that will stand (or, rise up, to be established, to remain).
Then, a wonderful promise from Scripture (if we meet the conditions):
Proverbs 19:23 – The fear (or, awe, reverence, profound respect) of the LORD leads to life, and (condition) he who has it (life and the fear of the Lord) will abide (or, rest, remain, stay, to make one’s home) in satisfaction (or, to be satisfied, full, abounding); He (promise) will not be visited with evil.
Finally, something God is slowly creating in my life.
Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion (or, intelligence, good sense, insight, understanding) of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook (or, pass over, to cover) a transgression.
I wonder what I will learn about Him tomorrow?
by Steve McCranie | Jan 15, 2015
When we instinctively think about a time for new beginnings (lose weight, get healthy, read the Bible more, get out of debt, etc.), one of the verses that is often quoted by well-meaning Christians is Proverbs 3:5-6. In this verse we find the elusive promise that we all crave: How to know what is the will of God for our lives or, more precisely, how to get God to show us what we need to do in a particular situation that we are clueless about, such as, should I marry this person? Or, where should I work? Or, what college should I attend? Or, should I do this or that or go here or there? I think you probably get the point.
The promise we want to claim is found in the latter part of Proverbs 3:6 and says: “And He (God) shall direct your (me and you) paths.” Yes, this is what we want. This promise is what we so desperately need. We want and need God to direct our paths, to show us what to do, to let us know what’s the right decision He wants us to make— to literally bring us out of the darkness of doubt, indecision and fear and into His light of perfect peace (Isa. 26:3).
And, if you are completely honest with yourself, you’d probably have to admit this promise usually, almost always, goes unanswered. Did you ever wonder why?
Is God somehow not in the promise keeping business these days? Or, were these words meant for someone other than you? You know, someone God loves more than you, or someone who is a better person than you, or someone more likeable than you? In other words, is God selfish in keeping His Word and does He only hand out His blessings to His children like the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dicken’s classic? Is that how you view your God?
Or could there be some conditions to the promise that we’ve failed to meet? Maybe we didn’t even know those conditions existed.
Let’s take a closer look at these two verses and see exactly what they say.
Building on What Came Before
In Proverbs 3 we see the Lord, through the pen of Solomon, building upon a base already established in the two previous chapters. For example, Proverbs 1:7 tells us “the fear (awe, profound respect, terror) of the Lord is the beginning (starting point, genesis, first, best) of knowledge (discernment, insight, understanding, notion).” Then, moving to the next chapter, Proverbs 2:5 reveals how we can “understand (to perceive, discern, become aware of) the fear of the Lord and find (attain) the knowledge of God.” How? How can we find the knowledge of God? By reading the conditions in the previous verses.
Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if (conditional clause) you receive my words, and (if) treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then (promise) you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
This is a classic if / then conditional promise. it states that If you do this, then I will do this. It’s basic, first year, Contract Law 101.
But there’s also a condition, actually three conditions, that must be met to receive the desired promise found in Proverbs 3:6. And those conditions are also found by reading the previous verses. Let’s take a look together and discover the if / then conditional promise in Proverbs 3:5-6.
What It Says
Proverbs 3:5-6 reads:
Condition One (the Do): Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Trust (to be confident, secure, bold, safe) in (who or what) the Lord (how much) with all (with each, every, the entire, the whole, complete, inclusive, holding nothing back) your (personal responsibility, something you can and are expected to do) heart (or, your inner self, your mind, will, emotions, personality, the “you”).
Condition One states we are to trust and have confidence and security in the Lord, in the Sovereign One, the Creator God, the Personal God; and we are to trust Him with all our heart, with all that we are, with our entire being, our complete person; with our mind, our will, our emotions, our personality and our volition. We are to trust Him completely and personally and this is something we have the responsibility to do. It’s one of the ifs in the if / then conditional promise.
Question: But how do we do this? How do we trust in the Lord with all our heart?
Answer: See Condition Two.
Condition Two (the Don’t): And lean not on your own understanding
And lean (rely, trust in, support) not (no, not, never) on (what) your own understanding (comprehension, discernment, perception).
Why are we not to trust or rely on our own understanding, on our own personal take on things? After all, didn’t God give us a mind and expect us to use it? And am I not to “follow my heart” and do the things that seem right to me, things that give me peace and make me happy? Isn’t that what the Disney movies have taught me from Bambi on? Can’t I trust my own heart and my own feelings? Who knows me better than me? And who knows what is best for me better than me?
This is why Condition Two is so hard to meet and why we seldom are blessed with the then part of the if / then promise. Consider the following:
Jeremiah 17:5 – Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed in the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.”
And the grand finale regarding the heart and our own feelings and understanding of things:
Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart (your inner self, your mind, will, emotions, personality, the “you”) is deceitful (sly, insidious, slippery) above (what) all things, and desperately wicked (sick, ill, diseased, incurable, in a weakened condition that leads to death); who can know (to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship) it?”
In other words, the heart, our heart, our self, our mind, our will, our emotions, and our personality is deceitful and insidious, sly above all things, above anything, with no limit. It is desperately wicked, sick, incurable, wracked with disease, weakened to the point of death, to the point of who can know it, or who can be intimate with it, approve of it, or have a relationship with it? Answer: No one. Zip.
Our heart cannot be trusted, ever. It must be redeemed.
Question: How can we learn not to lean and rely on our own understanding when that’s all we’ve ever been taught since kindergarten? What can we do to meet the requirement of Condition Two?
Answer: See Condition Three.
Condition Three (the Do): In all your ways acknowledge Him
In all (with each, every, the entire, the whole, complete, inclusive, holding nothing back) your (personal responsibility, something you can and are expected to do) ways (your paths, journeys, walk, the road traveled) acknowledge (to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship) Him (God).
Think for a moment. In all your, or our, ways, in everything that we do, secular or sacred, in church or out of church, seen and public or hidden and private, in everything we do, in every place we walk, wherever the Lord sends us, whomever we encounter, whatever the circumstances or conditions, either good or bad, in all situations, success or failures, pain or joy, life or death, in each and every thing and without exception— we are to acknowledge Him.
Let’s stop for a moment and look closer at what it means to acknowledge someone or something. In our language the term acknowledge means to “accept or admit the existence of something.” For example, “I acknowledge my mistake.” Or, “I acknowledge your authority.” Or again, “I acknowledge that you believe what you are saying is true, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.” It also means to “show or express recognition or the realization of something or someone.” An example would be when one man slightly nods his head in acknowledgment or recognition of another man. “I see you big guy. I acknowledge your presence.” We see this all the time in life.
But that’s not what the Hebrew word means in this Proverb. Condition Three doesn’t say “in all our ways we are to nod our head or tip our hat in simple recognition that God exists.” No, the word is much deeper.
The Hebrew word for acknowledge in this verse is yada and is the same word defined above as know in Jeremiah 17:9. The word, yada, means “to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship.”
Or, simply this: Condition Three means we are, in all our ways and in everything we do or say throughout our lives, we are to know and live intimately with God in such a way that He would approve of, and show His pleasure and favor on, the way we live our lives. It means we would trust Him for everything (Isa. 41:10), strive to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), to “walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16), and to “find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Eph. 5:10) and live our lives accordingly.
This is the meaning of Condition Three. We are to “walk just as He (Jesus) walked” (1 John 2:6).
Question: And what about the promise?
The promise in Proverbs 3:5-6 is: And He shall direct your paths
And He (God) shall direct (make right, straight, smooth, level, to lead, to be pleasing, to approve, esteem) your paths (way, journey, course of life and lifestyle).
In other words, God will take our fallen lives and our fractured past and smooth out the way before us. He will lead us as He did His children in the times past (Isa. 52:12) and His glory will be our rear guard (Isa. 58:8). He will “instruct us and teach us in the way we should go and will guide us with His eye” (Ps. 32:8). As the Good Shepherd, He will freely “give His life for His sheep”— for you and me, for those He loves (John 10:11). He will “strengthen and protect us from the evil one” (2 Thes. 3:3), and “present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).
This, beloved, is the promise of the Father given to you. It’s a gift, it’s the abundant life Jesus promised just waiting to be opened by you (John 10:10).
Are you living in the reality of that promise? Has God taken your broken paths and made them smooth before you? Has he redeemed the years you’ve lost to sin and selfishness and turned them into a testimony of His grace freely given to you? Has He “numbered your wanderings and collected your tears in His bottle and written them in His book”? (Ps. 56:8). Are you currently in the center of His will and is He directing “your steps by His Word”? (Ps. 119:133).
He can, you know. And He will. He wants to. All you have to do is claim His promise by meeting the conditions of one of the most glorious if / then promises in all of Scripture.
If – Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
If – And lean not on your own understanding;
If – In all your ways acknowledge Him,
Then – And He shall direct your paths (Prov. 3:5-6).
Begin this wondrous walk of faith today. Don’t wait. Why?
Because we’re all running out of time.
by Steve McCranie | Jan 13, 2015
Sometimes in our lives, when we least expect it, God has a tendency to show up and interrupt what we’re doing. Now we know He’s sovereign in all things and is “in His heavens and does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3), yet often we view His interruptions as an inconvenience, or as an annoying set of circumstances, or as some frustrating event, or just really bad timing. But God, as God, has the right to interrupt our lives and our petty little schedules and plans anytime He wants. In fact, we should welcome His interruptions.
Often He interrupts because we’ve grown cold, apathetic, lifeless, or lukewarm in our relationship with Him. These interruptions serve as a well-timed wake-up call to get our focus back on the eternal and important and off of what is temporary and insignificant. Sometimes He decides to break into our mundane existence, our stagnated spiritual life of ease and comfort and self-centeredness, to speak truth to us in a way that will forever change our future. And when that happens, we should joyfully embrace these interruptions as loving gifts from a loving Father, and not as something to fear or dread.
Let me give you just a few examples.
One day Israel no longer wanted God to be their King but instead wanted to be like all the other nations and have a king like they had (1 Sam. 8:5-9). So they rejected God and chose for themselves a man who looked the part of a king— a man of outward strong stature, a man with handsome features, an attractive man, a movie star type of man. They chose Saul to be their king: “Long live the king!” (1 Sam. 10:24). But what they didn’t know was that the “Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Saul was not the king the Lord wanted and, in the course of time, committed sins so grievous that God said: “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Sam. 15:10). So the prophet Samuel brought word to Saul that God “has rejected you from being king” (1 Sam. 15:23) and that the party was just about over. The die was cast, Saul was on his way out. All that was necessary was to anoint the new king of Israel.
Unaware of all this political drama in Jerusalem, there was a young boy who was faithfully tending his father’s sheep on the backside of a remote hill in a forgotten desert far away from anything good that was happening in the world. He was the youngest of eight sons born to a man named Jesse. One day that young boy was called home to stand before the prophet of God, Samuel, who was there to anoint the new king of Israel. Samuel had gone through the seven older brothers of this young man, one by one, repeating the same words, “The Lord has not chosen this one”. But when young David was presented before the mighty prophet he was declared to be the new king of Israel. Samuel said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one” (1 Sam. 16:12). David was now God’s anointed king, His choice among all the people on the face of the earth.
What an incredible interruption.
From that moment on, David’s life was forever changed. This young shepherd boy was now destined to bravely face breathtaking highs and heart wrenching lows he would have never had the opportunity to experience tending his father’s flock. Once God interrupted David’s life with Himself he discovered the joy of indescribable intimacy with the Lord as well as the shameful pain of public sin that we still talk about today. His faith was challenged on a battlefield facing a nine foot giant named Goliath (1 Sam. 17) and his very call from God and confirmation by Samuel was rejected by the current king of Israel, Saul, who sought to take his life. By embracing God’s interruption David was driven into the wilderness to live like a vagabond and was forced to act like a crazed madman drooling saliva in the presence of his own enemies (1 Sam. 21:13). And for a time, it seemed God’s interruption only produced pain and suffering in David’s life.
But we know the rest of the story, don’t we?
We know King David was called a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14) and we also know the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, traced His earthly lineage through King David (Matt. 1:1). We also know of the blessed promise given David that his throne would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:13-16).
Such are the blessings of an interrupted life.
Are you interested? Would you like your life to be interrupted like David’s?
We also know of a man named Saul, later changed to Paul, from the town of Tarsus, who was a rising star among the Jewish intelligentsia of his day. So committed to putting this Jesus cult down, he personally requested and was given authority from the High Priest in Jerusalem to travel to surrounding areas and bring back in chains those who claimed the name of Christ. One day, around noon, on his way to Damascus, God interrupted his life.
God spoke to him from a blinding light and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” To which Saul responded in awe and fear, “Who are you, Lord?” And the One who interrupted his life said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5).
From that point on Saul, or Paul as we know him today, was a changed man. He spent the rest of his life living for something and Someone greater than himself. Nearing the time of his death, Paul summed up his life by saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). He was determined to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And this man, this ordinary man with an interrupted life, was given revelations of the Lord God that simply boggle the mind. He was taken up into Paradise, the third heaven, and “heard inexpressible words which are not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:2-4).
Such are the blessings of an interrupted life.
Again, are you interested? Would you like God to interrupt your life like He did Paul’s?
I’m reminded of a young, teenage woman who was approached by a godly man who greatly desired to take her as his wife. She was a good daughter to her father and she was faithful to her Lord. She was chaste, a virgin, modest in her dress, righteous in her conduct— she was literally everything a young woman should strive to be and the kind of daughter every father hopes and prays for. A man named Joseph, well known in their town, respectable and God-fearing, had come and paid the bride price for her and was patiently dreaming of the day when he would be able to return and take her to be with him as his cherished, beloved bride. But this young woman’s life was about to be interrupted by a vision from the angel Gabriel, the messenger of the Lord.
One day, as Mary was going about her duties, God interrupted her life. An angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28). Mary was more than a little surprised. She was greatly troubled and probably in shock. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
Mary, seeing the natural impossibility of this, said, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-25).
What Will You Do With Your Interruption?
And now please understand this: When God chooses to interrupt a life, like David’s, like Saul’s, like Mary’s, and like yours, we always have a choice. We can choose to accept His interruption and all that goes with it, good or bad. Or, we can choose to reject His interruption and walk away. “Thanks for the offer God, but I think I’ll pass this time. Check back with me later.” God never forces His will on anyone. He offers us the blessing of His interruption and the choice to obey and accept or to reject and walk away is always in our own hands. It’s our call, our decision.
This is exactly what was presented to Mary.
With her future dark and uncertain, with no hope of Joseph or her parents or anyone for that matter believing her incredible story, with no means of physical support for her and her new child, and with the ever-looming danger and threat of her death by stoning, Mary nevertheless said in bold, courageous faith, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
And the world has never been the same.
So what about you? Are you praying for God to interrupt your life? Or, has God already tried to interrupt your life and you rejected His invitation? The greatest blessing a Christian can ever experience is God’s divine interruption into one’s life. God’s interruption means He wants to speak new truth to us, to lead us in a new direction, to infuse new purpose and meaning into our very lives. It’s a profound blessing, a gift of grace.
God’s interruption means we’re not forgotten, we’re not forsaken, we’re not simply an afterthought or a footnote in the pages of His glorious dealings with mankind. But God’s interruption means He has chosen you, and me, to do something specifically designed by Him and for Him.
Don’t be afraid of His divine interruptions. Do not fear them. But pray for them, ask for them, long for them, beg for them.
A Final Warning
But understand this, as Jesus warned those who haphazardly wanted to follow Him to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), there’s also a great cost to be paid when God interrupts your life. It may mean, and it usually does, that He will compel you to go into “all the world” (Mark 16:15) to do and say things to people you never thought possible. He will usually move you out of your ease and comfort zone and into an area where you’ll be forced to trust Him, and Him alone, and not your own strengths (2. Cor. 12:10). Words like, “I feel uncomfortable doing this” or “this isn’t my gift” or “I wasn’t trained for this” or “I didn’t sign up for this” will be banished from your vocabulary. New words and phrases will emerge from your lips like, “Thank you, Jesus, for using me this way because I know that in my weakness I am strong when I rely on You. I praise You for what You have accomplished through me. It’s all You, Lord.”
Are you ready?
Are you ready for 2015 to be a year of life-changing interruptions from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Then get ready. For your life is about to change.