A Guide for Cultivating Your Relationship with the Lord

Proverbs 9:10Over the years, I have had the privilege of helping believers and new believers learn how to cultivate and begin a relationship with the Lord through simply reading and reflecting on his Word. If you have teenagers or kids at home, you would especially benefit from reading through the book of Proverbs. The average month has 31 days. The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters. Thus, it is simple enough to read one chapter of Proverbs daily for a month.

For example, if the day were the 9th of the month, you would read Proverbs 9. Here are the simple questions I use when I read the Bible devotionally. Technically, it is called the Garland Method of Prayer that Timothy Keller adapted from his reading of Martin Luther.

I read the chapter then I jot down a couple of ideas, thoughts, and insights for each question and then I pray my answers back to the Lord. Below is an example:

• Adoration: What do I see in this text for which I can praise the Lord? (How does this passage lead me to worship God? What does this passage reveal about the nature of God who redeems His people?)

1. The word LORD in Proverbs 9:10 is God’s personal name and reminds me that our God is a God of loyal love.

2.  Life and wisdom are found in knowing the One who is called Holy.

3.  Lord, give me a greater sense of reverence, awe and humility before You. I am such a proud person. Thank you that you are loyal in your love for us even when we fail in our loyalty to you. I am so fickle in my love and devotion to you. Thank you that you make yourself known to proud, sinful, and fickle people like me.

• Confession: How does this passage lead me to confess or repent to God? (What wrong thoughts, feelings, and behavior happen in me when I forget this about the Lord? What does this passage reveal about our nature that requires God to save us?)

  1. When I forget that life is found in knowing the Lord, I try in vain to find life in other relationships and other things. It only leads to greater frustration and disappointment. My heart is restless and wayward. Forgive and calm my restless, anxious heart! Bring me to a place where I delight, fear, and know You for who you really are.
  2. Lord, left to myself I am seduced by the voice of lady folly. A corollary verse of Proverbs 9:10 is Proverbs 1:7. It reminds me “that fools despise wisdom and instruction.” How often I have thought that my way was better than God’s and played the fool.
  3. Awaken me to the reality that heeding the voice of lady folly leads to death. Her way ends in death (cf. 7:27; 8:36).

• Thanksgiving: How can I thank Jesus for being the ultimate answer to this sin? (How is this sin being caused by an inordinate hope that something else can give me what only Jesus can really give me? How does this passage lead me to the person, work and/or teachings of Jesus?)

Sometimes I will go to this website http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/and look up several key words from the passage I am reading. Words from Proverbs 9 might be: “wisdom,” and “knowledge.”

  1. Eternal and abundant life is found in knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3). Help me Lord to really believe this.
  2. In Jesus Christ lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
  3. Lord, I need you to give me an increased desire and resolve to know and boast in You alone. Left to myself, I boast and find delight in other things. Jeremiah 9:23-24 –  “This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

• Aspiration: How would I live differently if the truths of this passage were more real in my life? (For what does this passage lead me to pray? What do I need from God if I am to realize this truth in my life?)

  1. Lord, give me a keen alertness to hear your voice (the voice of wisdom). Stop up my ears from listening to the voice of folly and foolishness. May I not give myself to the false values, priorities,and commitments of this present world that is hostile to You.
  2. Help me to recognize, internalize, and walk in the way of wisdom.
  3. Bring me to a place where I gladly surrender and submit to You and Your Word for there is no real understanding or wisdom apart from You.
  4. Show me what’s at stake in the battle for my soul and the souls of my family members. Failure in heeding the voice of wisdom leads not simply to physical death but also to the spiritual reality bound up with where that path is headed – separation from You the only source of true life and love.

True Security – Proverbs 18:10

Proverbs 18:10 –

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.

  1. What do I see in this text for which I can praise the Lord? True security is found only in the LORD. Again, this name of God (Yahweh) reminds me that the one true living God is a God of loving loyalty. He is a personal God that you can know. He is the one who is loyal in His love and devotion to His people.
  2. When I forget this about the Lord, what sinful thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes result in me that I need to confess? However, left to ourselves, we are prone to run to other things and people for safety and security. How fickle I am in my loyalty, love and devotion to my Lord. Proverbs 18:11 reminds us that many look to wealth for security and significance. Why is it that wealth offers a false sense of security? Proverbs 23:4-5 recounts what can happen to wealth: “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”
  3. How does this passage point me to Jesus Christ in his person, work or teachings? Eternal safety and security comes from gladly confessing and bowing down in adoration and worship to the NAME that is above every name… “that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (See Philippians 2:9-11). The righteous are accepted and come into right standing with God not because of what they do, but because of what God has done in Christ… “He made Him who knew no sin to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Heidelberg Catechism written in 1563 in Germany puts it beautifully: “How are you right with God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.”
  4. How would I live differently if the truths of this passage were more real to me? I would rest more in the Lord and not fret and become so anxious about the future… I would have a more zealous commitment to worship the Lord both personally and corporately. It appears that the essence of true worship involves running away from the idols and pseudo saviors to which we are prone to give our allegiance  and running again to the Lord who is the only One who can satisfy us and give us true security. He is the One who will always let us in and never let us down!

 

Is Beauty the Beast? What does the Bible say?

Key Verses: Proverbs 11:16, 22; 30:18-20; 31:30

In the hearts of women and men, there is a God-given longing to be seen and enjoyed as beautiful or handsome without being used. However, ever since the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive (Genesis 6:2) and came into them (v.4), physical beauty has been just as much a curse to bear as much as a gift from God.

Christians have long been of two minds about physical beauty. We tend to vacillate between a monkish contempt of physical beauty and a worldly addiction to physical beauty. Many emphatically declare that inner beauty is all that matters. They emphasize that “the LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Chronicles 16:9). They exhort us to follow the One who “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).

However, if you have ever attempted to go to church or get a job in a major metropolitan area or find a spouse in your local singles group, you know that most tend to overvalue physical beauty. People do judge books by covers. For this reason, the world is full of people who suffer pains of rejection because they feel undervalued because of the way they look. All of us want to be admired for our beauty.

The way through this maze is to fully embrace the two things that the book of Proverbs says about physical beauty. The wisdom writer of Proverbs challenges us that…)

  • Physical beauty is the gift of God. Therefore we must not undervalue it. Physical beauty is not the beast. The father who writes Proverbs prays for the Lord to give his son an exquisitely beautiful and graceful wife (Proverbs 5:19).

Biblical Examples of God using physical beauty to accomplish His eternal purposes. Acts 7:20 – Moses “was beautiful in God’s sight.” Joseph was handsome in form and appearance (Genesis 37:6). Esther 2:7 – “The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at.”

But, why do we tend to undervalue physical beauty? Physical beauty is an alluring temptation. We undervalue physical beauty because it serves as a cause of much sin and evil in the world. Proverbs 6:25-27 – Lust after the physical beauty of a prostitute.… the alluring enticements of the immoral woman.

Physical beauty can become a vehicle for sin. Note 2 Samuel 11:2 – “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…”).

“If men never succumbed to the attractions of women, then the human species would have died out a long time ago,” the neurosurgeon brother of Eliot Spitzer, Daniel, told The Wall Street Journal.

However, “rejecting beauty can be as serious a sin as worshiping it. Listen to the testimony of Karen Lee-Thorp…

“I was stunned a few years ago to realize that my self-control around food was anorexia, a fruit not of the Spirit but of a compulsion to control something in my chaotic world. My alleged humility turned out to be merely spiritualized shame and cloaked pride. Beneath my drab clothes lived a woman who hated her body and who hated and feared beauty as the cause of evil. Like many children who are victims of rape and incest, I had believed that my feminine attractiveness had invited the abuse… I carried into adulthood a deep conviction that attractiveness was both dangerous and out of reach. Looking like a boy felt safe and achievable…”

We err when we distinguish too sharply between inner and outer beauty. The outer is part of what makes the inner available to others and the way we respond to someone’s outer person affects the person inside. Clothes, hair, and makeup can be an asset without becoming an addiction.

Human persons, not merely spirits, reflect God’s image. And I will never tire of telling you that you are loved both body and soul until you can look into the mirror and see imago dei. I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

Let’s examine a more common temptation that we all face in our youthful-oriented culture!

  • Physical beauty is a fading vanity (Proverbs 31:30). Therefore we must resist the prevailing tendency to overvalue physical beauty. Beauty can be a beast!

How do we know this from the book of Proverbs?

The key verse in Proverbs 31:30 clearly states that physical beauty is a fading vanity. “Charm (hen) is deceitful (Charm deceives because it promises a lifetime of happiness that it cannot deliver) and beauty is vain (breath, vapor, gentle breeze), but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Physical beauty is temporary, superficial, and deceptive.

The wisdom writer of Proverbs uses a graphic word picture to portray a woman whose beauty is only skin deep and physical. Proverbs 11: 22 – “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” The Scriptures view this indiscreet, beautiful woman not as a little disappointing, but as a monstrosity. It’s a disgusting and offensive portrait. A beautiful ring and you reach for it and it is attached to a pig that rolls around in the dirt and its own feces.

Overvaluing physical beauty dehumanizes women and damages their self-image. One way of translating Proverbs 11:16 – Charming women obtain glory. Glory means importance, honor and significance… Men use coercive and ruthless power to gain prestige. Women tend to use their physical charm.

We dehumanize women. Women are treated as sex objects. Child prostitution. The eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. They are three to five times higher in industrialized nations. Twice as high in college age women. There are presently at least one million Americans with anorexia and 95% of them are women. Between 60,000 and 150,000 of them will die as a result of their obsession.

Why should they care about their character when nobody else does?

Overvaluing physical beauty dehumanizes and debases men. Because of this addiction to beauty, we have all manner of sexual immorality, especially pornography. Here’s a summary statement from an article in the October 20, 2003 edition of New Yorker Magazine: “It (pornography) utterly damages a man’s ability to have healthy, intimate relationships in marriage. An escape… false intimacy – undermining the ability to have real intimacy.”

It also dehumanizes and debases men because it affects the way men determine whom they are going to date and marry. You tend to write off 80% of all the women you meet saying she’s shallow or she’s ugly.

If you tend to overvalue physical beauty:

  1. Embrace the reality that “outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Fix your eyes on that which is unseen!
  2. Befriend and spend time with people for whom designer fashions are not a priority or an option. This will keep your pride in check.
  3. Pursue the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4). Augustine declared that we love only that which is beautiful, but the beauty may be hidden. Proverbs 11:16 highlights a woman’s charm that is not just skin deep. “A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches” (11:16). Character will determine what a person is like and what everybody else’s life is like around him or her. The Scriptures praise Abigail for her discretion and godly judgment (1 Samuel 25:33).
  4. Women, help us out. We men are visually stimulated. We need you to follow the Apostle Paul’s counsel in 1 Timothy 2, to dress modestly.

Where do we get the power to rightly value beauty?

  1. Acknowledge that we have not prized the Lord and His beauty with anything like the fervor He deserves. Augustine confesses: “Late it was that I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you!”
  2. You can’t rightly value physical beauty unless you see and experience the glories of redemption. Ephesians 5:25-27 – Jesus Himself is your lover who died to make you beautiful – a radiant bride without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish. The Lord made us to be his lovers, not just his subjects or his sheep. When you are in love, you think about the person all the time. He wants us to be in love with him. He wants us to see him as the ultimate beauty.
  3. Illustration: Remember the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. It is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

Benediction: May the LORD satisfy you in the morning with His unfailing love, that you may sing for joy and be glad all your days and may the beauty of the LORD our God be upon you…. Psalm 90:14,17

Loving the Right Woman Well

There are three important questions that the book of Proverbs addresses on our theme: Whom are you to love? How are you to love her? Why are you to love her?

I.       Whom are you to love?

The Temptation of Loving Strange Women. The writer of the Proverbs emphatically call for  men to avoid promiscuity. As the father instructs his son in the first nine chapters of Proverbs, there is really one teaching that prevails: avoid immoral women. In fact, the entirety of Proverbs 5 and 7 is occupied with this theme. Proverbs 2:16-17 – “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.”

God has so ordered the world in such a way that promiscuity is self-destructive. The metaphor that the wisdom writer uses for infidelity in marriage is that of building a fire in your lap. Proverbs 6:27 – Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?

For some of you, this might mean a change in jobs, a change in your magazine subscriptions, and a change in your set of friends.

Love one woman (your wife) until death parts you. How do we know that God’s Word mandates this?

What does the text say? He who finds a wife (18:22). A prudent wife is from the LORD (19:14). A man’s energy and focus is to be exclusively on one woman and one woman only – his wife. The first line of defense against temptation is a healthy, intimate relationship with your own wife.

Malachi 2:15 – “Guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” What if you are here today and you have broken faith and have become an adulterer? You don’t have to be condemned to walk around with the letter A on your conscience for the rest of your life. Be encouraged. We are all spiritual adulterers here.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

II.     How do you love your wife well?

Rejoice in her and be captivated/intoxicated with her love (Proverbs 5). Rejoice in the wife of your youth. How do you do this? What you rejoice in is the thing that is your central sweetness and comfort in life.  To rejoice in the wife of your youth is to treasure her, to reflect on her beauty and importance until your heart tastes the sweetness of the gift of your bride. Acknowledge that she is a special gift of your heavenly Father’s hand. Cherish her with gentleness and purity. Show her tender affection.

Bear with her infirmities and cover her sins. That is why, love covers a multitude of sins… Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Whatever interrupts the harmony in your marriage relationship opens the door to imminent temptation. Proverbs 17:9 reiterates that “he who covers over an offense promotes love.”

Actively look for evidences of God’s grace in her life and compliment her frequently (31:28 – Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her). Actively look for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people. Make it a practice to become a student of your wife. How is the Holy Spirit revealing His fruit and His gifts in her life? Have you taken time for prayer and reflection on this crucial method for loving your wife well? What is she more aware of – evidences of grace that you’ve noticed or your persistent pressure on her to change?  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one of the protagonists, Mr. Darcy, is described as a man “who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish.” How about your wife? What evidence of God’s grace have you seen lately in your wife?  Tell her.

In our age of infidelity, intentionally pursue marital intimacy and fidelity  (5:18-23). Frankly, this passage is intensely erotic. So much so that preachers have to mark their words very carefully. Fidelity in marriage always leads to God’s blessing (vv.15-17). We live in a low-commitment culture that values intimacy without attachment… relationships without rings…

Husbands, ensure that your wife is the sole object of your stimulation, satisfaction and delight! Confine all acts of physical intimacy to the marriage bed. (Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.) Physically delighting in one another is not only a gift from the Lord, he sanctions and blesses it.

III.    Why should you love her well?

Loving her well leads to life. A relationship with strange women leads to death. 5:23 – He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.

18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good. The word “good” describes that which is pleasing to God, beneficial to life, and abundantly enjoyable.

Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” was recorded in 1966 at Muscle Shoals, AL. It was listed 54th in the List of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time. When a man loves a woman; Can’t keep his mind on nothing else. He’ll trade the world; For the good thing he’s found!

Loving her well ensures that you cherish and value a most precious gift of God. Proverbs 18:22 – He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. Proverbs 19:14 – Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. She is a tangible evidence of God’s favor. Finding a prudent wife is a more valuable gift than house and riches. She contributes more to the comfort and credit of a man’s life and the welfare of his family. Thus, you do well to appreciate her as a precious gift from the Lord (18:22; 19:14)

Loving her well serves as a protection against the immoralities and idolatries of this world. 1 Corinthians 7:2 – “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Thomas Watson – It is not having a wife, but loving a wife, that makes a man live chastely (purely)… He who loves his wife, whom Solomon calls his fountain, will not go elsewhere to drink of muddy, poisoned waters. Pure marital love is a gift of God, and comes from heaven; but like the vestal fire, it must be cherished, that it go not out. He who loves not his wife is the likeliest person to embrace the bosom of a stranger.  (1620-1686 AD)

Loving her well unleashes her to become a source of great blessing and joy to you and the generations coming behind you. Proverbs 31:12 – “She does him good and not harm.” The wife who is blessed by God becomes a source of joy for her husband. Proverbs 12:4 – A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. Do people recognize your husband as eminently honored and blessed because he has you as his wife?

Wives, you have incredible power. You can do your husbands great good or great harm. You can build up your house or tear it down. You can bless your family or curse them. Are you making it easier for your husband to love you well? Are you tearing your family apart by a contentious, quarrelsome, critical spirit and manner? Do you continually find fault with those around you? How many men whose wings have been clipped by a critical, contentious wife! Designed to soar… they are earthbound. Will you be a crown to your husband, or one who brings him shame? Will you serve in the manner in which God designed – as a helpmate? Or will you serve Satan’s purpose as a tempter and thorn in the side of your husband? (Genesis 3:6. 1 Kings 21:25. Job, 2:9.) Ask the Lord to search your heart with these questions.

When it is in your power to do it!

Proverbs 3:27 – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

Leaders in Christ’s church are usually working to apply the gospel of grace in all manner of conflicts. It could be a struggling marriage. Or, it could be a conflict due to a divergence in preferred worship styles, or a difference in ministry philosophy or a personality conflict or a strained relationship.

In our efforts to resolve these issues, leaders normally have to focus on what’s not going well and how to solve the problem or resolve the conflict. This is an important process. However, I have seen this process at times cause me to develop a critical spirit and to become easily discouraged and cynical. Also, it can blind me to all the good things that God is doing in and among us.

How quick we are to charge others with wrongdoing and blame them for failing us! How often do we truly look out of ourselves to encourage others? According to our verse above, a question we must keep before us is this: What are the good words to speak and the good deeds to do that God is calling us to say and do today? This doesn’t mean that we don’t at times rebuke and admonish others. However, the key in our admonishing, rebuking and teaching is to make sure that the Word of Christ, not our own words, are richly dwelling in our hearts and minds (See Colossians 3:16).

It is in our hands to do others in our families, work places, and churches great good or great evil. At times, we have to draw line in the sand and answer the question: Which will it be for me?

Proverbs 3:27 encourages me to become more intentional about the following: When God puts it upon my heart to share an encouraging word and do a kind deed for someone, I should heed this prompting of His Holy Spirit promptly, deliberately, and without question.

This should happen with our focus upon Jesus who endured the curse of death, judgment and separation from the Father that we deserved. He did not refuse to do us the ultimate good of restoring us to God and extending to us forgiveness, peace, acceptance, and true communion with His Father.

Actively reflecting on this fills our hearts and minds with thankfulness and joy, but it should also humble us to become more intentional in actively doing good to others since He continues to do us immense good.

God’s Guidance – Wisdom Along the Way

Jake was so excited to be hunting quail. He took off through the brush and proceeded to flush a bird… not just once, twice, but three times.  After the third time, the hunter, my friend Joseph Wheat’s father, got right in Jake’s face and spoke firmly to his dog: “Jake, we’re not here today to hunt with you. You are here to hunt with us. We are not following you. You are following us.”

When it comes to divine guidance in your life: Who’s hunting with whom? If you’re like me, many times you are running up ahead of God and basically telling him to hunt with you…to bless what you do. Instead we are called to hunt with God by seeking to do what He blesses. Like a dog flushing birds out of the brush too soon, our lives can become extremely frustrating without the assurance and reality of divine guidance.

For that reason, we want to examine today what the book of Proverbs says about the promise, the process, and the pitfalls of divine guidance: Who guides? How does it guide? Why do we need His guidance?

I.   The Promise — The LORD lovingly and sovereignly guides us.

16:9 – The mind of man plans his way but the LORD directs his steps.

16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

19:21 – Many plans are in a man’s heart but the counsel of the LORD will stand.

20:24 – Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD. How then can man understand his way?         

  1. His Name — the LORD (loving loyalty). YHWH – covenant Lord. I have promised to be the God who leads you by the quiet waters. The God who guides you in paths of righteousness for My name’s sake!
  2. His Function — He shepherds wayward sheep who are prone to wander. Illustration: You don’t know directions to your destination. So, you end up following a friend who drives like the proverbial bat out of hades. They forget that they have someone following them. This is unlike our Lord. He constantly remembers.
  3. His Providence — He directs and ordains. Psalm 139:16 — “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Providence is defined “as the unceasing activity of God whereby, in overflowing bounty and goodwill he upholds his creatures in ordered existence, guides and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men, and directs everything to its appointed goal, for his own glory.”

The Heidelberg Catechism reminds beautifully of the benefits of trusting God’s providence: We can be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from His love; for all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.[Prov. 21:1]

II.  The Process— How He guides His children?

A.         Prayer-derived. God guides us as we diligently pursue Christ and His will for our lives through believing prayer. First of all, I want you see that the wisdom writer of Proverbs highlights the importance of prayer for discerning God’s guidance. Divine guidance begins with a distrust of human reason and a dependence upon divine promises.

  • Scriptural Validation: Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
  • Proverbs 16:3Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.
  • Genesis 24:12-16 – Abraham’s servant fervently sought God to find Isaac a wife. He prayed that God would reveal Isaac’s bride by her offering him and his camels a drink of water. Sure enough, before he had finished praying, Rebekah showed up and each detail of the servant’s prayer was answered.

B.  Bible-based. We have a map for the journey. (Proverbs 1:5 – wise counsel/guidance)

  • We tend to use the Bible like the magical lamp of Aladdin. God guides us as we expose our minds and hearts to the wisdom of His Word. God ordinarily guides us in our decision making through Bible-based wisdom. He leads me means that by his instruction he gives me wisdom to see the right thing to do. What is the best that I can envision for God’s glory and the good of others?
  • Romans 12:1-2 – proving what the will of God is… Prove means “discern by examining alternatives.” There is a moral and spiritual precondition of being able to see in each situation what God wants done – the Spirit’s work of internal, character renewal.
  • We should never seek guidance from God about what he has already forbidden. Expect to be tested on this one. 2 Cor. 6:14 says that we are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Are you praying for guidance about whether or not you should marry an unbeliever? Save your breath!
  • The Holy Spirit guides us by focusing our hearts to love and serve specific people in specific ways. How would our church be different…if the older men

C.         Corporately-confirmed. God guides us as we actively seek out the counsel and wisdom of significant others.

  • Scriptural Validation: Proverbs 11:14 – In an abundance of counselors there is victory. 15:22 – Without consultation, plans are frustrated but with many counselors they succeed. 20:18 – Prepare plans by consultation and make war by wise guidance.
  •  We were not made or redeemed for self-sufficient aloneness. We must never succumb to being spiritual lone rangers. We must never be too proud to take advice from others. Listen to the sage counsel of J.I. Packer: “The Holy Spirit regularly uses the fellowship of the body of Christ to deepen our discernment of God’s will. It is part of the discipline of divine guidance to be ready for the Spirit to confirm his will for our lives through other believers.”

D.         Circumstantially-confining. God guides us through our circumstances that are controlled by His divine providence.

  • Scriptural Validation: 20:24 – Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD. How then can man understand his way?
  • Illustration #1: As a young Irish girl, Amy Carmichael prayed for God to give her blond hair and blue eyes like her mother. God providentially gave her brown hair and dark eyes in order that she might blend in with her native dress and be allowed into the city where she could rescue young girls from becoming temple prostitutes.  If she had had blue eyes, there would be no way to hide them, and she would never have been able to do what she did.
  • Illustration #2: Benjamin Warfield was an esteemed professor at the Princeton Seminary in the 1800s. He was married to Anne Kinkade. On their honeymoon in Switzerland, she was struck by lightning and was an invalid for the rest of her life. Dr. Warfield turned down many appointments and speaking engagements in order to care for his beloved wife and never traveled far from home so that he could personally care for her.
  • George Mueller – “Through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.” … What is it that will most honor and please my Savior?

III. The Pitfalls — Why do we need His guidance?

A.     Our deceptive hearts. 14:12; 16:25 – There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. Covetousness can masquerade as prudence and providing well for your own family. 

  • Illustration: The job promotion results in a death-like existence. You have no time for your wife and kids. You begin to have health problems due to the pressure. You are constantly away from your family out on the road. Your boss is breathing down your neck.
  • Our deceptive hearts can distort and twist Scripture for our own pleasure and indulgence. We can even twist the Scriptures to serve our own selfish desires. Illustration: I had a friend who justified his smoking of marijuana with 1 Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” All of us have an uncanny ability to deceive ourselves and twist God’s Word for our own selfish ends.

B.         Marked by pride , presumption , impulsiveness, passiveness.

  • Pride – A simple definition for pride is contending for supremacy with God. Like the hunting dog Jake – who’s following whom? Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. According to the Proverbs, the proud man leans only on his own understanding. Pride is the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart. It is the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God.
  • Presumption — 27:1 – Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth. How prone we are to arrogantly assume that we control our time and the events of our lives. James 4:13-14 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
  • We have not received another day to live by natural necessity, by right, or by courtesy of nature, but only by the mercies of God. This knowledge pulverizes our self-sufficiency and replaces it with a capacity to rejoice and rely on God’s faithful generosity.
  • Impulsiveness21:5 – The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Illustration: Prince Caspian – High King Peter has waited long enough for Aslan to show up and give his wisdom on how to defeat the Telamarines. In his haste and pride, many Narnias are senselessly killed because of his impulsiveness.

ConclusionDivine guidance is the very essence of Christianity. The Apostle Paul equates being guided by the Holy Spirit with being a child of God. Romans 8:14 says, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

This is why I want you to remember that a key prerequisite for receiving God’s guidance is this: That you become a child of God through faith in Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus was asked by a group of seekers, “What must we do to be doing the works of God? He answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom God has sent” (John 6:29). Have you trusted Him? Are you truly willing to be led by the Holy Spirit? Guidance implies that someone is leading and someone is following. Will you allow our good and gracious King to lead in your life? Or are you going to continue like Jake… asking God to hunt with you… to bless your life and your plans?