“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

“The Good Shepherd & Broken Bones” April 26

 

The Good Shepherd & Broken Bones

Verse 51.8, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” Why would the Good Shepherd allow the “broken bones” of trials and hardships to happen in the lives of His lambs?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 17-19
Psalm 51.7-11
Proverbs 14.33-35
Luke 18.24-43

 

Psalm 51.7-11:

The Good Shepherd & Broken bones

Verse 51.8, “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” If you want to read an incredible commentary on Psalm 51, order the book Whiter Than Snow by Paul Tripp.

The section on verse 8 is too long to share with you here, but it reminded me of the way shepherds in Biblical times sometimes dealt with wayward lambs. If they kept running away, the shepherd knew sooner or later they would be eaten by a predator, so after repeatedly bringing them back to the fold, he would break one or more of their legs so they could no longer run. Then he would gently carry that lamb wrapped around his neck and shoulders. As the legs healed, the lamb would grow close to the shepherd and no longer want to run away.

Sometimes God has to use difficulties in our lives—broken bones, if you will—to keep us from wandering away from Him. When that happens we need to see them as part of His redemptive love for us because, ultimately, the safest place for us to be is close to Him.  Continue reading

“Prayer & Fox Tails” April 25

 

fox tails

Are you persistent in prayer? Do you trust God and wait on His timing? Or are you tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and give up?

What do fox tails have to do with your walk with God?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 15 & 16
Psalm 51.1-6
Proverbs 14.31-32
Luke 18.1-23

 

Judges 15 & 16:

Sampson & God’s ability to use imperfect people

Talk about using imperfect people! Remember God’s purpose in all of this was that Sampson would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13.5). And even in Sampson’s death, God accomplished that purpose.

In the process, God blessed Manoah and his wife with the child they desired (see yesterday’s reading) and other children, as well (v. 16.31). Although, it must have been a great grief to them to see this son with so much potential, to say nothing of the call of God on his life, waste his gifts and talents as he did. But it may have been a consequence of coddling and catering to him in his youth.

Even so, Sampson, like all of us, was responsible for his own personal choices. It seems to me that he was the one who found the least satisfaction in all of this. In the area of his personal relationships, he continually ran after whatever appealed to him. His motives were selfish and he sought to fulfill them in ungodly ways. Consequently, they never brought him any lasting joy, peace or satisfaction.

He even used the strength with which God had blessed him for his own selfish purposes. That, in combination with a sinful sexual relationship, eventually cost him his eyes and his freedom and turned him into a cheap carnival act. Such is the deceitfulness of sin. It never delivers what it promises! Continue 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

“Spoiled Children & Selfish Adults” April 24

 

"Spoiled Children & Selfish Adults" -

Children who grow to expect whatever makes them happy, often approach the throne room of God like spoiled children and grow to be selfish adults. How does your parenting help or hinder your children’s understanding of God? Could you be setting them up for failure in their relationships with a future spouse or others without even realizing it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 13 & 14
Psalm 50.16-23
Proverbs 14.29-30
Luke 17.20-37

 

Judges 13 & 14:

Get her for me

Here we begin the story of Sampson. We’ll talk more about Samson’s calling and how God used him tomorrow, but today I’d like to comment on a few things about his relationship with his parents.

Obviously, these were loving people who desired a child very much. They believed in God and reverenced Him as we see from their responses when they realized they had been visited by the Lord.

But I have to wonder how they parented Samson. The first interaction we see between them and their son is in 14.1-2:

“Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, ‘I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.'”

His parents wanted him to do what was right:

“Then his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?'” (v. 3).

Sampson’s response:

““Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (v. 3).

“Get her for me!” And, of course, they did. Sometimes in our love and desire to see our children “happy,” we can easily become indulgent with them, giving them the idea that the world revolves around them.

Our children learn much about the nature of God from us. If we allow them to expect
whatever makes them happy, how will they approach the throne room of God? Many believers seem to think that God is there to give them whatever they want without regard to His will or His knowledge of what’s best.

This “get-me-what-I-want” attitude will also hinder their relationships with others. Paul said:  Continue reading

“How to Forgive When You’re Not Feeling It” April 23

 

forgiveness

We’ve all been there. We know God says we should forgive, but we’re just not feeling it! “How to Forgive?” We’re not even sure we want to!

“After all … it’s not the first time!”

“If I forgive he’ll think it’s OK to do it again.”

“What she said really hurt! It’s time someone gave her a some of her own medicine!”

“I’ll forgive, but I’m not going to forget!”

“I’m just not ready to forgive.”

“I don’t know how to forgive when I’m not feeling it!”

Is it necessary to feel like forgiving in order to forgive someone? Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to say we forgive when we don’t mean it?

What are the 3 promises of forgiveness and how can they help us forgive?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 11 & 12
Psalm 50.7-15
Proverbs 14.28
Luke 17.1-19

 

Luke 17.1-19:

How to Forgive When You Aren’t Feeling It

Even the disciples struggled with this idea. Look at their conversation with Jesus in verses 3-5:

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

“Increase our faith.” My paraphrase, “You’ve got to be kidding! Even if someone sins against me over and over in the same day and comes back saying, ‘I repent,’ I must forgive him?”

“Increase our faith.” Basically the disciples were saying, “That’s too hard. You’re going to have to give us some supernatural faith if we’re expected to do that!”

Faith is not the problem

So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Then he went on to tell them a parable about a slave and his master.

And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 

Jesus ended the parable by saying:

10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

Jesus had not changed the subject; He was still talking about forgiveness. Faith is not the problem when we refuse to forgive, obedience is! If Jesus is truly our Lord and we His servants, we should willingly obey Him even when it is challenging or seems unfair to us. And when we step out in faith, He provides the strength and ability.

It’s important to remember that biblical forgiveness is not about feelings. Sometimes we won’t feel like forgiving. The servant in the parable probably didn’t feel like serving his master when he was hot and tired and hungry himself, but he did it as an act of obedience. So too, we are to forgive as an act of obedience, as an act of our will.

The three promises of forgiveness

So how, specifically, do we do that?  Continue reading

“Polygamy & Acceptable Sins” April 22

 

Polygamy & Acceptable Sins

“Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament?” I’ve heard that question many times. The truth is, it has always been sin, but at that time it was an acceptable sin by most people’s standards. What sin have you allowed to become acceptable?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 9 & 10
Psalm 50.1-6
Proverbs 14.25-27
Luke 16.1-31

 

Judges 9 & judges 10:

ACCEPTABLE SINS

In Judges 8.30-31 Gideon had fallen into the sin of polygamy. Though it was tolerated in that society, it was never God’s intent. It always led to trouble and often outright evil as it did here in chapter 9.

We are introduced to Abimelech his son by another relationship (Gideon didn’t even marry this woman). Sin always spirals downward unless repented of and forsaken. Abimelech, not only conspired to become king of Shechem, but set out to kill all of his brothers—70 of them. He succeeded in killing all but one who hid from him.

What is God saying to us through this story? What principles can we learn? Possibly about the dangers of compromise?

If we trace this story back to 8.27, we see Gideon went from his great victory to making an ephod and setting it up in his hometown. An ephod generally referred to a sacred garment worn by a priest.

Matthew Henry says this may have included some kind of oracle to divine God’s will. The end of verse 27 says, “But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family.” Continue reading