“Flattery will get you!” July 27

 

Flattery will get you! - Could you be drawn away from God's plans in your life by flattery or some other temptation? What can we learn from Nehemiah about protecting our testimonies, our jobs, and our ministries?

Flattery will get you! – Could you be drawn away from God’s best in your life by flattery or some other temptation? What can we learn from Nehemiah about protecting our testimonies, our jobs, and our ministries?

 

Today’s Readings:
Nehemiah 6 & 7
Psalm 89.5-10
Proverbs 21.28
Acts 27.1-26

 

Flattery will get you!

 

Nehemiah 6& 7:

Flattery & Enticing Distractions

 

Chapter 6 reminds me so much of what goes on in politics and the media today.

¹ Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (6.1-3).

As soon as someone starts to do something significant for God, influential people want to meet with him or her and, often, interview them for TV or some other media. Sadly, many have learned the hard way that most people in the media don’t really want to rejoice with them because they’re doing something worthwhile. In fact, most have learned that what they say and do gets twisted and misreported. And all it does is serve as a distraction from what’s really important.

When flattery or the enticement of national coverage or rubbing elbows with dignitaries doesn’t work, the enemy will often attack from within—sometimes using people close to that person. How many times have we read the phrase “unnamed sources say …”

Another way the enemy attempts to bring down servants of God is by taking advantage of our own sinful desires, often through an immoral sexual encounter.

Those encounters don’t always start with something obviously sexual or immoral. Often they happen between two co-workers or even people who work together in ministry.

It may seem innocent, at first, things like texting and compliments, but will often turn to flirting and spending more and more time together.

I thought it was interesting that one of the people mentioned in verse 14 was a woman, the prophetess Noahdiah! Even though nothing sexual is mentioned, what if Nehemiah had listened to her and began to develop a relationship with her? How many times has someone said, “We’re just friends” only to fall into temptation as the “friendship” develops? We need to be so careful of both the perception of something inappropriate and the temptations that we all face. Continue reading

“Politicians, Greed & Worthless Religion” July 26

 

Politicians, Greed & Worthless Religion - Greed can raise its ugly head in any area of life: in politics, in business, even in the family. Just as ugly is worthless religion. What does God value in the way of Christian service and religious activity? Are you relying on things that are worthless to God?

Greed can raise its ugly head in any area of life: in politics, in business, even in the family. Just as ugly is worthless religion. What does God value in the way of Christian service and religious activity? Are you relying on things that are worthless to God?

 

Today’s Readings:
Nehemiah 3-5
Psalm 89.1-4
Proverbs 21.27
Acts 26.1-32

Politicians, Greed & Worthless Religion

 

Nehemiah 3-5:

Greed and Selfishness

 

Nehemiah and the people continued to rebuild the wall, but not without opposition. Nehemiah’s response was the same one we should have when we encounter problems. Chapter 4, verses 8-9:

“… and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”

Nehemiah and the people prayed, did what they believed God wanted them to, and left the rest in the hands of God!

Chapter 5 changes focus and talks about problems among the people themselves. Some of the Jews had taken advantage of the hard economic times and had charged high rates of interest and even taken some of the other Jews as slaves to repay their debts. This was forbidden by the law. God takes a very serious view of this kind of behavior and Nehemiah dealt with it accordingly. Verses 11-13: Continue reading

“Entitlement, Contentment & Hard Work” July 25

 

Entitlement, Contentment & Hard Work - Many people today, including believers, have an entitlement attitude. We want what others have and refuse to be content where God has us. In some cases, we are lazy and not willing to do what is required. Instead, we grumble, complain, and sometimes become bitter and resentful.

Many people today, including believers, have an entitlement attitude. We want what others have and refuse to be content where God has us. In some cases, we are lazy and not willing to do what is required. Instead, we grumble, complain, and sometimes become bitter and resentful.

 

Today’s Readings:
Nehemiah 1 & 2
Psalm 88.11-18
Proverbs 21.25-26
Acts 25.1-27

Entitlement, Contentment & Hard Work

 

Proverbs 21.25-26:

Grumbling, Complaining & Coveting or Faithfully Working & Obeying?

 

“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare.”

These two verses make me think of a story I read about a famous pianist. A man came up to him once and said, “I would give my life to be able to play like that.” The pianist replied, “I did.”

I am not advocating neglecting family or any other God-given priority to seek selfish goals, but so often we want things that others have without being willing to do what it takes to obtain them. In the case of a lazy man, he covets the things that others have worked to obtain, but isn’t willing to do the same.

This is an attitude that is rampant in our society today. Many people, even Christians, have an entitlement attitude, even about spiritual things. Continue reading

“Strengthening Your Marriage” + LINKUP

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource.

 

This week’s selection is Strengthening Your Marriage by Dr. Wayne Mack.

 

Strengthening Your Marriage - How is your marriage? Is it good? Is it great? Could it use some work or, at least, some fine tuning? Marriages, even good ones, need regular maintenance.How is your marriage? Is it good? Is it great? Could it use some work or, at least, some fine tuning? Marriages, even good ones, need regular maintenance.

Genesis 2.24 says:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

This is much more than the obvious physical union between a man and a woman. This is a unity of hearts and goals that requires good communication and a laying down of our own selfish agendas to follow God’s agenda.

Amos 3.3 says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

As Christians our goals should be in line with God’s goals for marriage, but that won’t happen unless we know and understand God’s blueprint.

Dr. Wayne Mack’s book, Strengthening Your Marriage, can be a great tool for helping any couple do just that. The book is made up of 8 Units to study together as a couple or as part of a small group:

  1. God’s Purpose for Marriage
  2. The Wife’s Responsibilities
  3. The Husband’s Responsibilities
  4. Good Communication
  5. Financial Agreement
  6. Sexual Unity
  7. Raising Children
  8. Family Religion

Each unit begins with a teaching section in the form of an amplified outline. Key points are noted and all points are accompanied by Scripture references. The teaching section is followed by study questions and practical exercises to work through as a couple. Dr. Mack says: Continue reading

“Biblical Grounds for Divorce” July 24

 

Biblical Grounds for Divorce - What does the Bible say about divorce? Is it allowable to divorce because we're not happy or no longer in love? Is it OK if we're unequally yoked? Are there even any biblical grounds for divorce?

 

I’ve often heard that the rate of divorce in the US is about 50%, but I’ve discovered that statistics are hard to pin down. Some say the rate of divorce has dropped in the last decade and that as high as 70% of marriages make it to their 15th year. While that’s good, what about the 30% who don’t? And is it possible that the divorce rate is going down because many couples simply live together without marrying?

What does the Bible say about divorce? Is it allowable to divorce because we’re not happy or no longer in love? Is it OK if we’re unequally yoked? Are there even any biblical grounds for divorce?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 9 & 10
Psalm 88.6-10
Proverbs 21.23-24
Acts 24.1-27

 

Biblical Grounds for Divorce

 

Ezra 9& 10:

Marriage and Divorce when Unequally Yoked

 

59 years had passed since the completion of the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In these passages, the second group of former captives have returned led by Ezra. He has learned that the Jews who were already there, including many of the leaders, have taken pagan wives. This was strictly forbidden by the Law, had repeatedly led the people into idolatry, and had caused the nation to be taken into captivity. Yet, they had gone back to the same practices!

John MacArthur points out in his Daily Bible notes that even though there was a decision made that these wives as a whole were to be “put away”—that is divorced—each marriage was examined individually, probably to learn whether the wives had become believers. He also notes that other gentile women like Ruth and Rahab who had embraced faith in God were accepted and even included in the lineage of Christ.

So what about today? Can we divorce an unbelieving spouse? Matthew Henry in his commentary says, “As to being unequally yoked with unbelievers, such marriages, it is certain, are sinful, and ought not to be made; but now they are not null, as they were before the gospel did away the separation between Jews and Gentiles.”

2 Corinthians 6.14 says:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

So while it is wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian, if a believer is already married to a non-believer, divorce is not an option in most circumstances.

 

divorce argumentBiblical Grounds for Divorce

 

So what does the Bible say about divorce? Is it ever allowable? Jay Adams, in his book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible, says, “Contrary to some opinions, the concept of divorce is biblical. The Bible recognizes and regulates divorce.”

When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, “being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly (Matt. 1.19). He was going to divorce her until an angel convinced him that she had not committed adultery. Continue reading

“Studying the Bible in a Pagan Culture” July 23

 

Studying the Bible in a Pagan Culture - God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithfully studying the Bible and seeking to understand and apply it.God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithfully studying the Bible and seeking to understand and apply it, even in a pagan culture. There is little doubt that we are living in a post-Christian culture, in many ways a pagan one. Are you part of that remnant?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 7 & 8
Psalm 88.1-5
Proverbs 21.21-22
Acts 23.16-35

 

Studying the Bible in a Pagan Culture

 

Ezra 7 & 8:

Preparing the Heart & Studying God’s Word

 

Ancient scrolls torahAs you can well imagine, most of the returning Jews who had lived and been born in a pagan culture had little understanding of God’s law. But chapter 7 verse 6 says:

“This Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.”

Ezra had faithfully studied and meditated on the laws and precepts of God in spite of the culture around him. And because of his faithful preparation, he was instrumental in teaching the people who had returned to Jerusalem after the captivity. God was able to use him in a mighty way because he knew God’s Word!

Do you suppose he ever wondered, “Why am I spending all this time reading and studying and memorizing scripture?” John MacArthur says in his Daily Bible that, according to tradition, Ezra had God’s law memorized. That would have been at least the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—memorized! God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithful to study and seeking to understand and apply it.

Scribes were commissioned with copying the Scriptures by hand, as well as, knowing and teaching them. Did you know there are more than 5,300 handwritten Greek
manuscripts of the New Testament alone (many more of the O.T.) and they have very few errors, most of which have to do with numbers or spelling not things which would alter any Bible doctrine.

It’s no wonder that Jesus was so upset with the Scribes and Pharisees in His day. They knew the Word of God and legalistically demanded adherence to the letter of it without grasping the Spirit of it.

Ezra was a great example, though, not just of knowing the law, but living it:

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (7.10).

Man Praying Holding the Bible isolated on whiteNotice the order: he prepared his heart, he sought to understand the Word of God, he purposed in his heart to obey it, and then he taught it to others. It’s not that we are ever going to do things perfectly, but before we seek to teach others, we should be doing our best to understand and be doers of God’s Word ourselves.

What about you? Are you faithfully studying God’s Word for yourself or are you content to be spoon fed on Sunday mornings? What if it was suddenly against the law to own or read a Bible, do you have enough of God’s Word hidden in your heart to sustain you and to allow you teach others?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 88.1-5:

Trusting God in Times of Trouble

 

This psalm is a lamentation. The psalmist was apparently in some kind of deep distress and did not understand why God had not answered his prayers for relief. Can you relate?  Continue reading

A Wise or Foolish Woman: The Tongue & Ears

 

Are you a wise woman or a foolish woman? - The Bible has a great deal to say about wisdom and the flip side, foolishness. In this series we'll look at what it means to be wise and, by comparison, what it means to be foolish. And how we sometimes end up on the wrong side without even realizing it.The Bible has a great deal to say about wisdom and its flip side, foolishness. In this series we’re looking at what it means to be wise and, by comparison, what it means to be foolish and how to recognize the difference.

 

Are you a wise woman or a foolish one? Part 2

The Tongue & Ears

 

woman of God

As I said in the first post (read it here), while I’m specifically addressing this to us as women, these truths are for everyone: young and old, men, women, and children.

 

wise woman

Our foundational Scripture is Proverbs 14.1  which says:

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.

 

wisdom

Our working definition of wisdom is, “wisdom is the right application of truth.” It’s not only knowing the truth, but applying it to the everyday situations of our lives!

Today we’ll begin looking at some of the specific things God has to say about wisdom, beginning with “the tongue” and the ears, how well we listen.  Continue reading

“Ever feel like you have a purse with holes?” July 22

 

Do you feel like your have a purse with holes? Have you put God on a back-burner? Are your priorities God's priorities? Could He be using circumstances to get your attention?Ever feel like you have a purse with holes? Have you put God on a back-burner? Are your priorities God’s priorities? Could He be using circumstances to get your attention?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 5 & 6
Psalm 87.1-7
Proverbs 21.19-20
Acts 23.1-15

 

Ever feel like you have a purse with holes?

 

Ezra 5 & 6:

Are your priorities God’s priorities?

 

The people who had come back enthusiastic and ready to rebuild the temple, had met some resistance and gradually quit doing God’s work and, instead, got busy with their own lives.

God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir and rebuke the people about their priorities. In Haggai 1, God said:

“‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the Lord God of Hosts, ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountain, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the Lord” (Hag. 1.5-8).

What about you? Do you need to consider your ways? Are your priorities God’s priorities? Have you gotten “too busy” to be concerned about the things of God? Do you feel like you work hard, but everything goes into a purse that is full of holes? Could God be using circumstances to get your attention?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 87.1-7:

Everything Comes from Him

 

Verse 7b says, “All my springs are in you.” In Acts 17.28 Paul said, “… in Him we live and move and have our being.” James 1.17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above … ” (NASB).

God is the source of every talent, every ability, every blessing. Scripture tells us that He even blesses the unrighteous in many ways. The Puritans called it “common grace.” And yet, we are so easily puffed up and become proud of our achievements, our possessions, even, our children. We need to be careful to give God the glory that He and He alone is due!

 

Proverbs 21.19-20:

Contentious and Angry

 

In verse 19, God again sees fit to warn us, ladies, that we can easily go from being a blessing to being a curse to our husbands and/or children.

“Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.”

Of course, we women are not the only ones who struggle with anger and it’s just as destructive when it’s you men.

angry kids childrenIf you struggle with anger get a copy of Wayne Mack’s book Anger & Stress Management God’s Way. In it he explains that anger that is selfishly focused or controls us is sinful—no matter how we try to justify it. If you’re dealing with angry children, check out The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo or Getting a Grip: The Heart of Anger Handbook for Teens. Both are extremely practical and helpful for parents and children alike.  Continue reading

“Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture” July 21

 

"Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture" - With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just "go along because it's the law" will never be stronger, but we must choose whether to fear God or fear man in the increasingly anti-Christian culture we live in.

 

With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger, but we must choose whether to fear God or fear man in the increasingly anti-Christian culture we live in.

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 3 & 4
Psalm 86.11-17
Proverbs 21.17-18
Acts 22.1-30

 

Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture

 

Ezra 3 & 4:

Fearing God or Man?

 

"Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture" - With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just "go along because it's the law" will never be stronger, but we must choose whether to fear God or fear man in the increasingly anti-Christian culture we live in.In chapter 3, even though the people who returned to Jerusalem had the authority of the king behind them, there was still opposition from the people already living in the land.

Verse 3 says, “… fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries …” But in spite of their feelings they determined to do what was right and to worship God as Moses had instructed them to do.

Even though there is a move to restrict our rights as believers, we still have a great deal of freedom under the laws of our land. And while Romans 13 instructs us to obey those who rule over us, even that has limitations. Anytime someone in authority asks us to sin, we have a higher authority—that is God and His Word.

With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger. There will be times on the job (even when we are within our rights), with our friends, or in our families where we will feel fear—fear of being ridiculed, fear of being rejected, fear of what people will think, fear of being labeled unloving or intolerant, even in some cases, fear of losing our jobs or our businesses. But, we too, can do what’s right in spite of our feelings.  Continue reading

“Loving Your Enemies” July 20

 

Loving Your Enemies - What do you value more—your rights when abused and mistreated or the eternal destiny of your abuser? Like Christ we are called to love our enemies.

What do you value more—your rights when abused and mistreated or the eternal destiny of your abuser? Like Christ we are called to love our enemies.

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 1 & 2
Psalm 86.6-10
Proverbs 21.15-16
Acts 21.18-40

 

Loving Your Enemies

 

Acts 21.18-40:

Paul’s Eternal Focus

 

What an incredible example of boldness in the face of intense persecution! Paul had just been beaten by a mob. It says they were, “seeking to kill him.” After he was rescued, he asked the soldiers if he could address his abusers and then he began to share his testimony and to prepare their hearts for the gospel.

Like Christ who died for us when we were His enemies, he was more concerned about their spiritual destiny than any harm done to him.

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5.44).

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Phil. 2.3-4).

Like Paul and Jesus, we need to resolve to keep our focus, not on any wrongs done to us, but on others’ need for a Savior!

That doesn’t mean that those who abuse physically, sexually, or in any other way should be allowed to continue illegal or immoral behavior. But even when the right thing to do is to report a crime or in some other way allow the abuser to suffer the consequences of his actions, the focus of our hearts should be eternal, forgiving them, trusting God in our own lives, and praying for their salvation.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezra 1 & Ezra 2:

God the Author of Human History

 

historyThe book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off, with a pagan king named Cyrus sending the captives who wanted to return, back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Verse 1 says, “that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled …”

God was orchestrating the course of human events. History is His-story.

And just as God is in control of the events of human history, He is in control of our individual histories, as well.  Continue reading