Hi, this is pastor Ken with my thoughts on a Thursday…A couple of years ago I had to undergo a very specialized lifesaving surgery. In times past this surgery regularly rendered people unable to regain full function and experience a complete recovery, but because the surgery saved lives it was still routinely performed. The reason the surgery left so many unable to see a full recovery was due to the involvement of some critical nerves. As careful as the surgeons were, they most often found themselves unable to perform the operation without causing permanent damage to these all important nerves. Thankfully by the time I needed it, surgeons and engineers had developed a way to perform the operation with the assistance of a robot. The surgeon who performed my operation literally did it from across the operating room utilizing a video screen and joysticks resembling those of a gaming system. Connected to the surgeon’s console was a robot securely anchored to the floor, and affixed to the perfectly stable robot was the scalpel guided with inhuman precision. When the surgery was completed the cancerous tumor was removed but he nerves were still intact. As expected when the recovery period was completed the doctors found that the nervous system had sustained only minimal impact. To date this is the most advanced way known to perform the surgery and literally thousands of people see incredible results compared with the past. Who knows what new innovations will come in the future, for now this is the best there is and yet it is still not perfect. I am grateful for the existence of it in my own lifetime and to the skilled surgeon who performed the operation on me. However, there is one who is infinitely better. One who’s scalpel never misses, and is always 100% accurate.
Hebrews 4:12 in the New King James Version reads as follows; For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This verse tells us that the word of God is living and powerful. Some may ask what does it mean that the word is living, how can words on a page be living? It is in fact living in the following ways among others. First it is the word of the ever living God. No other book can make such a claim. All other written works are authored by someone who is deceased, or will someday be so. Only the Bible is authored by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16) who always was and always will be. God’s word will always stand as the word of the living God. Second anything that creates action must be alive. Notice I did not say that inspires action. The latter is the intent of many books. There is an entire genre of literature dedicated to self-help, but it is simply that, help that is intended to inspire the reader to make adjustments in their actions or thinking that will be of value, but the work must be enacted by the power of the reader. God’s word is infinitely different. It enables lasting and supernatural change within our lives. I couldn’t count the number of people who I personally know who attest to the fact, as do I, that the word of God has made possible for them things they could not formerly do in and of their own strength. In this way, being the power to cause change in our lives, the word of God is living. Finally, I will add to the argument that there is no other written word that can continue to grow in its depth and meaning beyond our ability, and in fact the ability of anyone to fully comprehend its complete and total meaning and application. How many times have you heard of or experienced the re-reading of passages of scripture, often well-known ones, that seem to have further and or new application to the life of the reader? Compound that with the omniscience of the Author who knowing the needs in advance was able to place the appropriate scripture, while giving new insight and revelation at the perfect moment in time. The word of God is indeed alive and powerful…
The scripture goes on to say that it is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow While the word sword may give a war-like connotation, and there is definitely value in that, as there is a constant war being waged against what God desires for us, and His word is certainly our best defense. There is also as the greater part of the analogy used here suggests, the implication of a scalpel in the hand of a surgeon. I love the clarity that the Amplified Version gives to this portion of the verse. It notes that the idea of piercing even to the division of soul and spirit indicates that God’s word is capable of cutting to the very completeness of a person. William MacDonald explains further that these are the two invisible, non-material parts of man, but which are undeniably existent in each of us. God’s word is able to transform the very heart of us, it is able to make the proud humble, and the weak strong. The analogy continues though as the scripture mentions that God’s word is also able to affect joints and marrow. The implication here is that God’s word is also powerful to create change in the physical part of us. The use of the words “joints and marrow” intimates that God’s word is effective in the changing of the very movement we make or in other words the things we do, as well as affecting the very life of our bodies. The marrow is the part of our skeletal structure that creates our blood cells, and God’s word tells us elsewhere that the life is in the blood. God says of His word in Isiah 55:11 (NKJV) So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. God’s word is able to affect us in such a deep and complete way that what He purposes for us to do, we will do. His word affects our lives and actions in a profound way. Finally, this scripture goes on to say that God’s word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. He and His word are both alive and powerful enough to work within the free will He has given to us, and still see that His ultimate will for our lives is accomplished.
As I recall now entering the hospital on that fall morning two years ago, I was not looking forward to the recovery but was thankful and excited about the prospect of undergoing the skilled surgeon’s scalpel firmly held by the robot that was being utilized. I understood that the precision to be employed by that process had the best chance available to me for a positive outcome. OK, I’ll admit I also thought the technology was kind of cool.
We should all be even more excited to go under the perfectly precise knife of God’s word. Mathew Henry said of it that “It powerfully, convicts, powerfully converts, and powerfully comforts.” I encourage you to look to it each and every day to allow its perfect operation in and on your own life. Allow it to cut to your deepest parts and remove from your life all that is not perfectly good for you.
So now, allowing the exceptionally skilled hand of your master to operate, go be awesome!
Hi, this is pastor Ken, and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…
Job 36:15 (NLT) But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity.
As the counseling pastor here at Crossroad, one question I have to deal with on a fairly consistent basis is “If God is in control, did He cause the difficulty I am experiencing to happen to me?” When the suffering the person sitting in front of me is experiencing is the direct result of sin, their own or someone else’s, the quick answer is easy. It is the longer more involved answer, the one they are searching desperately for…that is more difficult to help them accept.
Quick answer…No, God does not tempt or cause us or anyone else to sin. James 1:13 (NKJV) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. If that is true, then is God really in control? Yes…God does not cause anyone to sin, and so in that respect, He does not cause the pain of the consequences of sin to be inflicted upon us…but thankfully, neither will He waste it.
I am partial to the book of Job. It is among my favorites probably because God has used it to speak so very clearly into my own life. It is in fact where my ‘life verses’ come from. There is probably no better example in all of the Bible where we can learn so much about suffering. Our scripture for today teaches an incredibly important lesson about suffering and its value.
There is an old song penned and performed by Andree Crouch, ‘Through it All’, that speaks to this very truth. The lyrics of the third verse of that song say, “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys, I thank Him for the storms He brought me through. For if I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know God could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God could do.” Essentially that is the truth contained in today’s verse. God doesn’t cause our suffering, but He is willing to use it so that He can show himself strong in the midst of it, and get our attention in the process. God will use our suffering to teach us things He needs for us to grow in our relationship with Him. This has happened in my life, and I would imagine He has done it in yours as well. Those lessons are often so valuable and so emotionally expensive, that we tend to never forget them. Although we generally never come to a place where we invite suffering, and in some cases wish we could learn the lessons in a less painful way…any other way, those all important lessons give us reason to be grateful for the adversity.
The fact that this whole process takes place brings to mind another wonderful promise from scripture. Hebrews 2:18 (NLT) says Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Jesus was perfect, He lived perfectly…but He didn’t have a perfect life. He was ridiculed and called crazy by His own family, He was ostracized and called demon possessed by His church leadership. He was mercilessly tempted by Satan, He was punished terribly for telling the truth, He was murdered because of yours and my wrongdoing. Yes, the sin of others caused Jesus a great deal of suffering. As a result, He is keenly aware of what that is like for you and me, and so uniquely suited to help us when we experience suffering at the hand of another’s sin.
Thankfully our final verses for today extend another promise of great hope when we are experiencing suffering because of the consequences of sin. Romans 8:35,37 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?… No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Nothing…nothing…nothing, not even the consequences of sin, ours or someone else’s perpetrated against us can ever separate us from Christ’s love for us. Nor will Christ allow us to experience suffering without the opportunity for victory to come about because of it. The purpose in the pain are the many imperative and valuable lessons He wants us to learn as a result.
Lord, we don’t like it when we suffer. We especially don’t like it when we suffer as a result of someone else’s sin. Help us to have a changed perspective. Help us to see that you didn’t cause the visitation of suffering on our lives, but you aren’t willing that it be wasted either. You desire that we learn many good lessons even from painful circumstances. Thank you Lord for such a love and care that desires our best even out of someone else’s worst. In Jesus powerful name, Amen
I have always marveled at people who could set aside their cares and press on, in spite of sometimes daunting circumstances. However as my walk with the Lord grows deeper, I realize that this ability is available to all of us, if we follow His example.
There is an endless supply of troublesome news, seemingly everywhere we look and listen. Personally, I avoid as much as I can, probably because we choose not to have a television in our home (but we do have internet, so news IS readily available IF we want it.) I know this is contrary to the norm in most homes today.
While most Americans (even those who are Christ followers) would likely say they simply want a peaceful life, it alludes a large majority of them. But I’ve got your answer – or I should say, God’s word has OUR answer. No surprise there, so let me take you back to the pages of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4. Many of you will be very familiar with verses 8 and 9:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Now verse 8 has made its way onto many a plaque, picture, or tea towel but like so many other places in God’s word, you can’t just extract a verse without looking around to see additional instruction in its vicinity. Verse 8 directs our thoughts; verse 9 directs our actions.
While the world would have us glued to our television sets, checking social media, or reading the tabloids for a steady diet of stress-du-jour, these verses offer a recipe for the peace many of us lack. If we do set our minds on that which is true, noble, just, and pure…well, who could argue we’d not be the better for it? Consider those things that are of “good report” – what???? Where exactly will we find those ‘things’ – not online, of this I’m certain!
If our minds are busy pondering (and no doubt fretting over the things of the world) is it any wonder we feel stressed? However, if we meditate (think on) the things of God, what does it tell us will happen? Specifically it says if we do those things that are biblical examples – what we have heard and seen done, THEN the God of PEACE will be ON us! So by immersing ourselves in God’s word and NOT in the world and the not-so-good reports it offers, we have the ability to do exactly what brings peace to our lives, God’s word says so, and that’s a sure fire guarantee we can count on.
Now, with your eyes on Him, and following His example, focus on what He has called you to, and GO BE AWESOME!
As a marriage counselor it is my privilege to help people realize the marriage they desire and that God intends for them to have. For the past few weeks I have been preparing for a marriage seminar I will be presenting this coming weekend. I am excited for the opportunity that this format will offer for people to find new ways to experience God’s design for their marriage. As I have been prayerfully readying myself I can’t seem to help but consider the question; What is the single most important key to a great marriage?
There are many keys obviously, enough to resemble the overfull ring hanging from the belt loop of my high school janitor. But if I had to pick just one…which would it be? I understand the importance of Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV) “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”. It is incredibly important that we show love and respect in the ways we are commanded to here in this verse. It is true, especially in times of conflict that women need to know they are loved by their husbands. Likewise, it is also in these very times that a man is acutely aware of his need to be respected by his wife. I believe that these primary needs required for a marriage to be seen as in good standing have been given them by God to reflect the needs He has for those very same things. God is quite clear that we must love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also makes no bones about the fact that we must respect Him to the point of having no other gods before Him. He requires our unconditional love and respect, and so gives to us the need for the same…unconditionally. A clear understanding of this is key…but is it THE key?
Another key that quickly comes to mind is considering each other’s thoughts. Proverbs makes it quite clear that if we want to succeed, we must consider each other’s thoughts. Furthermore, we must understand that our spouse’s thoughts are equivalent in value and importance to our own. We have trouble with this I get it…we all have a tendency to believe our thoughts to be correct and best, but God’s word seems to differ. It appears that the intent of God is that complete thought on a given matter is not possible without considering the thoughts of our spouse. In fact, no decision…unless failure is the desired outcome…should ever be made without the input of the one He has given to us. Proverbs 31:10,11 read “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. When this was written, men made all the decisions for a home and for that reason it was stated in this direction, but in our current culture where decisions are made by both husband and wife, I think the reverse reading of the scripture would not be inappropriate. I believe the overall understanding God wants us to have is that He desires we consider the thoughts and ideas of the spouse He gifted us with so that together we can make decisions that are more complete, and bear a closer resemblance to wisdom. Although highly important to good communication, is it THE key?
For THE KEY to a great marriage I would have to look to Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectionate to one another…in honor giving preference to one another.” One version puts it this way, “Outdo each other at putting the other first”. Preferring one another in my humble opinion is THE KEY to a great marriage. When we practice putting our spouses needs above our own we shift our marriage into overdrive, you know, the gear where we are able to cruise with the greatest efficiency. Undoubtedly, preferring one another is not promoted by our society. Everything the world puts in front of us says that preferring someone else above yourself will get you run over, make you unhappy and will leave you with unmet needs of your own. Worldly wisdom at its finest, but terribly, terribly incorrect. Marriage is a spiritual experience; therefore, spiritual principles apply. When we prefer one another in marriage we remove from our spouse the compulsion to try to get their own needs met, and they become free to focus on our needs. The fact that their needs are being given higher priority than our own spurs them to reciprocate. So, preferring does not get you run over, it ensures you will not be run over. It does not make one unhappy in increases their joy. It does not leave one with unmet needs it sees to it that the needs they have are met over and over again.
Perhaps most important, preferring one another follows exactly the example of Christ toward His bride, the church. Husbands are told specifically to follow this example. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her. And written to wives; the verse before…just as the church prefers Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything. Christ left Heaven where I imagine He had need of nothing. There He reigned supreme along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He had no need to come to earth, He did it because WE had need of Him to come. He preferred His bride and met her need when He had no personal obligation to do so. The example then is that He made Himself lower so He could elevate us, (His bride) higher…the ultimate in preferring another.
So then if we are to be good “Christ followers” as husbands and wives, THE KEY is to prefer one another in LOVE. Paul reminds us what that should look like in 1 Corinthians 13. It means we must prefer one another even if we don’t feel it is being reciprocated. We do it as an act of kindness, we don’t pat ourselves on the back when we prefer one another, and we don’t become prideful because we are doing what we ought. We mustn’t prefer our spouse just so that we will be preferred in return, and we can’t keep a scoresheet of who has done it first most often. If we are going to use THE KEY to a great marriage correctly, we must simply do it in response to the fact that Christ did it for us.
So now, holding THE KEY to your great marriage…Go be awesome!
I love to travel. To me there isn’t much more comforting than ‘Hitting the road’. I imagine this comes from my upbringing. The Brown family was a bit of a nomadic tribe. To date I have lived in 23 different houses, I have resided in 2 countries and 5 different states, some of them multiple times. In the 2nd grade I lived in 4 different homes, in 2 different states and attended 3 different schools…yeah, we were a tad bit nomadic…but it seemed normal to me. So, I am sure this has had an impact on my feeling comfortable being on the road. As a result, I have visited 34 of the 50 states, the territory of Puerto Rico and have been to 4 different countries. Many of you have travelled even more extensively than I, many of you less, but my travels have indeed made it an experience I thoroughly enjoy.
One of the things I do when I travel is input my destination into a GPS. I don’t do that because I need directions, no, I am a man after all, directions are not necessary…I do this simply so I will know what time I should arrive at my destination. In fact, sometimes I even turn down the volume so as to not be distracted by the voice in the box barking out orders when I purposefully leave the prescribed route. When I do venture off toward some alternate destination I have not been so polite or inclusive as to have formerly made the GPS aware of, it will begin to inform me rather abruptly that it is recalculating to give me the most efficient directions to return to my original path.
Did you know that as Christ followers we have an awesome GPS inside each and every one of us? Just like the GPS in our cars and on our smartphones it knows exactly where we are at any given time. It knows how far we are from our final destination and it knows when we will arrive there. It also has the ability to alert us when we leave the prescribed route whether we have done that deliberately or in error, and unlike the navigation systems in our cars, is able to gently and lovingly get us back on track.
Psalm 139 1-16 (NKJV) reads; O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high; I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
Thankfully these words written by King David were not only true for him but are true for us as well. Our God loves us so intensely and immensely that He is always keeping a watch over us and knows where we are at all times. Not just where we are physically, but where we are emotionally and spiritually as well. These verses point out that He knows where we are, what we are doing, and what our thought about it are. God knows when we get off track too, and has a plan to help us recalculate. His word tells us in John chapter 17 that when He went back to heaven to prepare our final destination, He was sending us a helper (our internal GPS) to keep us on the right path. He said this helper, His Holy Spirit would let us know when we were deviating from the intended way and would convict us of our wrong doing. In fact, He promises that our internal GPS will help keep us from making the wrong turns in the first place.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) says, No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. For those times when we still turn off of where we shouldn’t, He gave us the formula for being able to turn around (repentance) and get back on the right way. He stated in 1 John 1:9 that if we would confess our sin, He will be faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Praise God for what a loving and good, good Father He is! Thank Him for the GPS (God’s Protective Spirit) that He has provided for all those who follow Jesus. Welcome His direction for your life and travel it with ease. David ended Psalm 139 with these words inviting the recalculating for his life…Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
So now, traveling with the GPS turned up so you can hear Him and His correction…go be awesome!
My grandfather had a saying that if I heard escape his lips once I undoubtedly heard him say it a hundred times…” I never met a pie I didn’t like”. This simple phrase has held true for me as well…perhaps with the exception of rhubarb…in my humble opinion…that doesn’t make the list of good pie.
If pie is so good, and it is. You only have to ask grandpa and I…and millions of others who agree with us. Have you ever wondered why they call it “Humble Pie”? Is it because it is bitter like the one and only example of rhubarb? Or is it instead because it is supposed to be good like every other pie on the planet. I submit to you it is the latter and not the former. “Humble Pie” is not just good, it is very good and turns out that unlike almost any other pie…it is extremely good for you!
Jesus spoke very highly of the benefits of humility. He said in Matt. 18:4 that whoever humbles themselves like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In Luke 18:14 is recorded that Jesus said “and everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted”. Jesus reiterated these truths by proclaiming them other ways as well; “The last will be first, and the first last”, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it”. He even shared parables with His disciples about the importance of humility such as which seat to take at a wedding feast (the least prominent one available) and which one to avoid (the most prominent available), explaining that the former was the only choice that allowed for blessing while the latter left too much room for shame. It is clear from these and many other of Christ’s teaching as well as the entirety of His life’s example that humility is held in the highest regard in the Kingdom of God.
I know that we often think of “Humble Pie” as something we are forced to eat when we have been unable to deliver on our word, and sometimes that is when it is served to us, but not without warning that it was on the menu. God’s word is clear that saying we will do this or that without the condition of it being the Lord’s will is simply a form of pride, because we have precious little control over what we will be able to do in the future. I wish I could count the number of times my mom quoted to me from Proverbs during my teen years when I was acting without humility; “Ken, Pride cometh before the fall”.
However, when consumed correctly “Humble Pie” is warm and delicious and has many good spiritual health benefits. Proverbs 3:34 says that God gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 29:23 speaks to the fact that a man’s pride will bring him down, but the humble in spirit retain honor. In Philippians chapter 2 Paul writes that if we practice eating “Humble Pie” the way we should, such as not thinking too highly of who we are, and by esteeming others higher than ourselves, we will be imitating Jesus in a most desirable way and it will be evidence that we have the mindset of Christ. James lets us in on a few more of the spiritual health benefits of a nice sized slice of “Humble Pie”. He also writes that God gives grace to the humble, and adds that if you humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, that He will in fact lift you up. Peter echoed those sentiments when He again wrote that God gives grace to the humble and that if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, He will exalt us at the perfect time. Proverbs says that “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.
Humility is the currency in the economy of the kingdom of God. If we want to be rich in the kingdom, then we must allow humility to seep into every area of our lives. Jesus made it clear that we should be storing up treasure in heaven. There is little doubt that this is what He was talking about. How we learn to live here in this life, in this world, will determine our wealth in the next. Make no mistake, I’m not talking about “earning our salvation” …we can’t do that. I’m not suggesting that if we perform enough “good works” we somehow curry the favor of God. What I am saying is that if we live a life of humility…real humility, the kind that permeates every part of our lives, we will look an awful lot like Jesus who undoubtedly has the highest standing as Lord of lords and King of kings. Looking like Him, acting like Him and being connected to Him does matter now and will matter then.
James the brother of Jesus asked this all important question, and I ask it of you again today. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
I said it before, let me say it again “I never met a pie I didn’t like”. Apple is awesome, sour cherry is scrumptious, pumpkin is pleasingly spicy, …rhubarb is even good if you add strawberries…but humble pie…humble pie is divine!
So now, eating all the humble pie you can consume…go be awesome!