“Sin’s Invisible Hooks” April 30

 

sin

Are you playing around with some sinful thought or thinking about something from your past?

Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown

 

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1-3
Psalm 53.1-6
Proverbs 15.8-11
Luke 20.27-47

 

1 Samuel 1-3:

Multiple wives: provocation & ridicule

There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.

Chapter 1:

¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Verses 4-7:

And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.

It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.

“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).

This was never the way God intended marriage to be.

 

Israelite womanHannah’s vow

11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:

“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).

Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.

 

God’s judgment on willful, unrepentant sin

Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. This man knew what his sons were doing, stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (2,25). God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening.

Romans 1 explains it this way:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).

This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. Notice, first of all, people know the truth, but suppress it. These two sons were priests; they had heard the truth. Their hearts were first darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them over” (removed His restraining grace) and allowed the natural consequences of their sin to run its course.

 

Sin’s invisible hooks

How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us?  Continue reading

“Authority: Respect & Abuse” April 29

 

Authority: Respect & Abuse - Lack of respect for authority may be one of the greatest problems facing our nation and the world today. What is the proper biblical attitude toward authority and how should we respond to the abuse of authority?Lack of respect for authority may be one of the greatest problems facing our nation and the world today. What is the proper biblical attitude toward authority and what about the abuse of authority?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ruth 3 & 4
Psalm 52.6-9
Proverbs 15.6-7
Luke 20.1-26

 

Luke 20.1-26:

By what authority?

Verses 1-2, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

Solomon said:

“That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1.9).

Solomon had it right. Many people say what amounts to the same thing today. The words may be different, but the heart attitude is the same, a refusal to recognize the authority of God and His Word.

“What right do you have to impose your religion on me?”
“What makes you think the Bible is true?”
“By what authority do you have a National Day of Prayer?”
“How can you say that Jesus is the only way to heaven?”

But before we get too self-righteous about the words and attitudes of non-believers, we need to first take the logs out of our own eyes.

“I know what the Bible says, but …”
“This is 2016 …”
“Me … submit to my husband. What if he’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong with living together? A marriage license is just a piece of paper.”
“Sex isn’t wrong if you’re committed to each other.”

I read a book recently and one of the chapters started out like this, “There is a God. I’m not him.” A simple truth, yet we constantly choose to go our own way, believing we can make our own rules as if the Bible is a book of divine suggestions.

Abuse of Authority

But what about the abuse of authority? How should one respond when mistreated, falsely accused or abused?

Mistreatment and abuse of authority happens in a fallen world. It isn’t anything new. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for the better part of 400 years. The Jews were mistreated, beaten, killed and enslaved by the Babylonians, the Romans, and others. They were imprisoned, stripped of rights, property, and even life itself, by Hitler and his henchmen. Today they are hated by various Islamic groups and nations who are determined to see them annihilated.

Nations from every continent in the world have been enslaved and abused by other tribes and nations at various times in history. Ungodly people with power and authority have often abused that power.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

So what should Christians do?

sonogramWell, first we should stand up when others are mistreated, especially those who can’t defend themselves. The Bible specifically mentions widows and orphans. I believe this speaks directly to unborn babies. We can stand up in this area by educating ourselves through organizations like the Life Training Institute and learning how to respond to desperate unwed mothers and their boyfriends in a loving, yet truthful way. We can stand up by supporting our local pro-life organizations. Here in El Paso the Pregnancy Help Center does great work to protect the unborn and minister to their mothers, fathers, and those who have suffered the pain of abortion already.

When we’re mistreated

And how should we respond when we are mistreated or have been in the past? The book of 1 Peter has some things to say on that subject.  Continue reading

“What would they call YOU?” April 28

 

What would they call YOU? - If someone was to describe you using one word, what would they call you? Would it be kind, compassionate, joyful, thankful … or would it be ungrateful, fearful, critical, angry, sarcastic, or bitter? Bitterness can make us self-focused rather than focused on the spiritual good of others. A lack of thankfulness can blind us to God's blessings. Anger and criticism can destroy a relationship, a life, and a testimony.

“Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1.20).

Mara means “bitter.” Can you imagine meeting an old friend after a long absence and when she calls you by name, you say, “Don’t call me Donna or Diane or David … call me Bitter.”

If someone was to describe you using one word, what would they call you? Would it be kind, compassionate, joyful, thankful … or would it be ungrateful, fearful, critical, angry, sarcastic, or bitter?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ruth 1 & 2
Psalm 52.1-5
Proverbs 15.4-5
Luke 19.28-48

 

Ruth 1 & 2:

Famine and loss

We’re beginning the book of Ruth, a beautiful little story of God’s mercy and redemptive work even in the midst of great sin and evil. This story takes place during the time of the Judges when, as you remember, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17.6, 21.25)

The story starts out talking about a famine in Bethlehem where Naomi and her husband Elimelech live. God often uses famine to discipline His people, but He also uses it to prune and grow and test them.

Because of the famine Elimelech takes his family, Naomi and his two sons, and moves to Moab where he dies. The boys marry and then die prematurely, too. Eventually, Naomi hears that there is bread—prosperity—once again back home so she decides to return.

Packing up

Dr. Amy Baker, a teacher and counselor at Faith Baptist Church in LaFayette, Indiana, paints an interesting picture of this story. She pictures Naomi and her daughters-in-law packing and cleaning and getting the house ready to sell and finally loading the wagon and getting on the road headed for Jerusalem when Naomi says to the girls, in effect, “Why don’t you just go back home to your families? I’m not going to be any good to you.”

They obviously love Naomi. Both of them weep and tell her they want to go with her, but Orpah eventually heads back to her family. Ruth does not, instead, she insists on going with Naomi.

What is going on here? We don’t know all the details, but we can glean a great many truths—some of them sad and some beautiful. Continue reading

“Sin’s Bizarre End” April 27

 

Sin's Bizarre End: The consequences of rejecting God are not pretty. As one sin leads to another, the results are sad, costly, and sometimes downright bizarre. The book of Judges ends with several examples, including how to get your relatives attention and how to get a wife.

Sin’s Bizarre End: The consequences of rejecting God are not pretty. As one sin leads to another, the results are sad, costly, and sometimes downright bizarre. The book of Judges ends with several examples, including how to get your relatives attention and how to get a wife.

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 20 & 21
Psalm 51.12-19
Proverbs 15.1-3
Luke 19.1-27

 

Judges 20 & 21:

Sin’s bizarre end

Today we wind up one of the saddest periods is Israel’s history—to quote John MacArthur, “Judges 17-21 vividly demonstrates how bizarre and deep sin can become when people throw off the authority of God …”

Grab your partner … do-si-do

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Can you imagine telling some cousins, we’re sorry you don’t have any women to marry, but some of our other cousins are having a party and the girls will be out back dancing. So just grab some of them and we’ll look the other way!? Or how about offering your virgin daughter to a bunch of rapists or shaking up your complacent relatives by sending a part of your murdered wife’s body to each family. It makes you wonder why the human race has even survived this long … only because of the grace of God!

Our own bizarre consequences

But before we criticize our spiritual ancestors too harshly, we need to look at our nation today. Where has sin and the rejection of God led usContinue reading

“7 Men & the Secret of Their Greatness” + LINKUP

 

7 Men & the Secret of Their GreatnessWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas.

 

We all need heroes. Even the Apostle Paul said that we were to follow him and others as they follow Christ, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Phil. 3.17).

On the other hand he warned us, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15.33).

Who we hang out with, who we follow, who we choose as heroes, can have a profound effect on our lives. When we read the biographies of great men and women who have gone before us, we have an opportunity to see how they lived and to follow their example.

Eric Metaxas has written several of the best biographies I’ve read in recent years. Earlier I reviewed one of them, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. You can read about it here.

In Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, Metaxas writes about seven men who experienced struggles and faced challenges that would have crushed lesser men. These men and their stories—George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson—can encourage all of us to be strong in the face of opposition and live right in a world that has little or no standard.

 

What makes great men & what is the secret of their greatness?

What is biblical manhood and what makes men worthy examples? Metaxas’ book doesn’t just tell us, it shows us through the lives of these seven men. (I’ll talk about women who exemplify biblical womanhood in a future blog.)

Metaxas tells us first what it isn’t, here are several excerpts for the opening chapter:

The first false idea about manhood is the idea of being macho— of being a big shot and using strength to be domineering and to bully those who are weaker. Obviously this is not God’s idea of what a real man is. It’s someone who has not grown up emotionally, who might be a man on the outside, but who on the inside is simply an insecure and selfish boy.

The second false choice is to be emasculated— to essentially turn away from your masculinity and to pretend that there is no real difference between men and women. Your strength as a man has no purpose, so being strong isn’t even a good thing.

God’s idea of manhood is something else entirely. It has nothing to do with the two false ideas of either being macho or being emasculated. The Bible says that God made us in his image, male and female, and it celebrates masculinity and femininity. And it celebrates the differences between them. Those differences were God’s idea.

For one thing, the Bible says that men are generally stronger than women, and of course Saint Peter famously— or infamously— describes women as “the weaker sex.” But God’s idea of making men strong was so that they would use that strength to protect women and children and anyone else. There’s something heroic in that. Male strength is a gift from God, and like all gifts from God, it’s always and everywhere meant to be used to bless others. In Genesis 12:1–3, God tells Abraham that he will bless him so that Abraham can bless others. All blessings and every gift— and strength is a gift— are God’s gifts, to be used for his purposes, which means to bless others. So men are meant to use their strength to protect and bless those who are weaker. That can mean other men who need help or it can mean women and children. True strength is always strength given over to God’s purposes.

Metaxas goes on:  Continue reading

“Family Worship” + LINKUP

 

Family WorshipWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney.

 

Family Worship: It’s perhaps one of my greatest regrets that we didn’t do a better job in this area.

We did other things we believed were important. We took our children to church every Sunday. We made sure they were involved in the children’s and youth ministries.

We set boundaries as to where they were allowed to go and with whom. We made sure they knew “the rules,” that is, what Christians should and shouldn’t do.

We didn’t take cruises or buy expensive personal items. We made Christian school and family focused activities a priority. We put in a pool so the kids could have their friends over where we could get to know them and we’ve seen some of those young people come to the Lord. We took family vacations. We tried to be good examples morally.

It’s not that we did any of these things perfectly … far from it, but we worked at it. We also read our Bibles and prayed, although again, haltingly and imperfectly.

But our attempts to live the Christian life, while important and a part of what we should have been doing, coupled with what we were taught and taught our children was too much about keeping “the rules.”

Let me say here that, at that time, we didn’t attend what you would call a conservative or fundamentalist church. On the contrary, we attended a contemporary church where “freedom in Christ” was talked about on a regular basis! Yet, in retrospect, our understanding of Christianity wasn’t really about the freedom of the Gospel lived out on a daily basis.

I wish I had been familiar with books and teachers like Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent. I wish we had understood the importance of understanding that the Gospel is something we must preach to ourselves every day and that it should be understood in the grace and freedom of the Gospel lived out and talked about in our home in more effective ways.

God, in His faithfulness has grown us and exposed us to better, more biblically sound teaching through the years. And we continue to grow in that area. We understand the importance of sharing the Gospel, properly understood and applied, in our home. But our children are grown with children of their own. A couple of our grandchildren are even married and have little ones. (Yes, that makes us great-grandparents!)

My prayer is that someone out there reading this will seek to understand and do that a little bit better as a result of my testimony.

One thing I believe can be an important part of good parenting and our own personal growth in Christ is regular, Gospel-centered family devotions. I believe this is important whether or not we have children and whether or not they are still at home.

I first heard Donald Whitney talk on this subject at a biblical counseling conference. I was both blessed and convicted. But more than anything, I was motivated to share the importance of all this with those God puts in my path both inside and outside the counseling room.

Dr. Whitney’s book can be a huge help in that area, but I’ll let you hear from him: Continue reading

Relationships: “We can’t communicate about anything!”

 

We can't communicate about anything!Welcome to Soul Survival where I blog through the Bible and on other subjects related to living the Christian life. My “day job” is biblical counseling. I’m an ACBC certified counselor. I meet with couples, families and individuals to help them find God’s answers for the issues and struggles they face.

Besides meeting with people formally, I am frequently asked questions at church or by email. I’ll be answering some of those questions here on the blog. If you have a question you’d like to see answered (using only a first name or initial) you can submit it here.

 

TODAY’S QUESTION:

From John:

My wife and I have huge communication issues. We don’t seem to be able to communicate about anything! It seems like everything is an issue with her and I don’t usually react the way I should. We fight about the kids, my friends, her family, my family … you name it! I think she’s too critical and she says I’m too selfish. We both know we shouldn’t be talking to each other like that, but we don’t know where to start to fix it.
Continue reading

“Gospel Treason: Uncovering Our Hidden Idols” + LINKUP

 

Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols by Brad BigneyWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols by Brad Bigney.

 

The Bible talks a lot about idols and idolatry, both in the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps you, like me, have often skimmed over those verses as only relevant to some foreign culture with temples and giant statutes.

But are statues of Buddha, Hindu gods, and other strange religions the only forms of idolatry?

In Ezekiel 14 God, speaking to the elders of Israel, said this:

¹ Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me.And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?

“Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.

These were not carved statues. These idols were in their hearts, were causing them to stumble into sin, and separated them from God.

Sin does that. While those of us who belong to Him don’t lose our salvation. It puts a wall between us and Him and will hinder our prayers and our communion with Him.

Gospel Treason can help us uncover the idols we have in our hearts, idols we might not even recognize. Idols that are standing between us and our spiritual growth, between us and the marriage we want, between us and peace in other relationships. In short, causing chaos in our lives.

Brad does so through personal stories and a great deal of transparency. From the introduction:

My wife and I have been married for twenty-five years, but twenty years ago we were at war. There was no camouflage, there were no guns, and neither of us was crawling under barbed wire in our single-wide mobile home. But we both felt that we were constantly stepping on land mines in our relationship—putting out brushfires, running for cover, and dodging the bullets that our tongues fired back and forth. Our marriage had deteriorated into a battlefield, and we were opposing forces.

And the casualty rate was high.

He goes on:  Continue reading

Relationship Q & A: “Physical Abuse”

 

Physical Abuse: A few weeks ago my husband hit me. He said it would never happen again, but it did. I hope you can tell me what to do.Welcome to Soul Survival where I blog through the Bible and on all kinds of other subjects related to living the Christian life. My “day job” is counseling. I’m an ACBC certified counselor. I meet with couples, families and individuals to help them find God’s answers for the issues and struggles they face.

Besides meeting with people formally, I am frequently asked questions at church or by email. I’ll be answering some of those questions here on the blog. If you have a question you’d like to see answered (using only a first name or initial) you can submit it here.

 

TODAY’S QUESTION:

From J.:

A few weeks ago my husband hit me. The first time he told me it would never happen again, but last week it did. We have only been married 2 years and we have a new baby. My parents don’t live here, but I did talk to his mother. She seems to be concerned, but she doesn’t want me to tell anyone. I love my husband, but every time something goes wrong, I start to get afraid. I hope you can tell me what to do?
Continue reading

“For Women Only: The Inner Lives of Men” + LINKUP

 

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of MenWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn.

 

I probably recommend Shaunti’s book, For Women Only, as much as any book in my counseling arsenal. There are other books that are more in depth biblically, even other books on the role of the wife that do a better job of explaining from the Scriptures what God has to say about our role. But I find that the one thing women who want to be godly wives struggle with most often is understanding just what we do that our husbands perceive as disrespect. And Shaunti’s book does the best job of helping us do just that!

That isn’t the only thing you’ll come to understand about the inner lives of men. Reading this book will probably provide you with numerous “aha” moments.

From Chapter 1:

Have you ever been totally confused by something the man in your life has said or done? Have you ever wondered, looking at his rapidly departing back, Why did that make him so angry? Have you ever been perplexed by your husband’s defensiveness when you ask him to stop working so much? Yeah? Me too.

But now, after conducting spoken and written interviews with more than one thousand men, I can tell you that the answers to those and dozens of other common perplexities are all related to what is going on in your man’s inner life. Most are things he wishes you knew but doesn’t know how to tell you. In some cases, they’re things he has no idea you don’t know. This book will share those interviews and those answers. But be careful, ladies. You might be slapping your forehead a lot!

She goes on:  Continue reading