“The Care & Feeding of Prodigals” April 21

 

care & feeding of prodigals

Do you have a prodigal in your life? If so, how are you responding? Are you helping or just helping them stay happy in their pigsty?

From our other readings:

What is death? Why do we call an unbeliever spiritually dead? What is the second death?

And what about you … Are you a talker or a doer? Talking about God isn’t living for God. Talking about winning souls is not sharing the Gospel. Talking about prayer is not prayer.

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 7 & 8
Psalm 49.10-20
Proverbs 14.22-24
Luke15.11-32

 

Luke15.11-32:

The care and feeding of prodigals

Yesterday I talked about the danger of having a “ho-hum, I’ve heard that before” attitude about the stories in the Bible that are familiar to us. Today’s reading is another very familiar story, that of the “prodigal son.”

So often when we read this well-known parable, our minds go to all the prodigals we know. Or maybe we think about our own testimony, how we were once prodigals. And there are great lessons to be learned in those areas.

We need to identify those prodigals we know so we can pray for them, but we also need to take a closer look at some of the other important points in this parable.

Let’s start with the father in the story, how he responded, not just to his son’s homecoming, but also to his prodigal years.

Perhaps you have a prodigal, a son or daughter you have prayed for and wept over. You’re probably looking forward to the day you can say, “My son (or daughter) was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).

We often fret and push and prod our prodigals to repent and come home. And, all too often, instead of letting them spend enough time in the pigpen to come to the end of themselves, we keep “feeding them”—bailing them out of many of their problems, not understanding that the “hunger” they are experiencing is God’s method of helping them come to their senses.

This father was watching for his son, but he didn’t go after him, he didn’t send him money or help him in some way when he was “down on his luck.” It’s important to remember, the father in the story represents God who knows everything that is going on in the lives of His prodigals, yet let’s us go our way and lovingly allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions.

And what about the “older brothers” in our families? The older brother in the story represents the Pharisees with their self-righteous, self-sufficient attitudes.  Continue reading

“Are you bored with God’s Word?” April 20

 

bored Are you bored with God’s Word? Do you allow God’s Word and God’s wisdom to affect your heart intensely or is it too often “Ho, Hum, I’ve heard that before”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 5 & 6
Psalm 49.1
Proverbs 14.20-21
Luke 15.1-10

 

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A familiar story

Probably one of the most familiar stories in Judges is the story of Gideon. Those of you who were brought up in Sunday school have probably heard the story many times.

But God doesn’t want us to come to His Word, going “ho-hum, heard that one before.” His Word is “quick” as the old King James Version says. That means it’s “alive.” Think of the “quick” under your fingernails—very much “alive,” as you know, if you’ve ever gotten a splinter under there!

Remember our questions from yesterday and how we can use them to dialog with the Lord. What are You trying to tell me through this passage? Is there a promise here I can claim? Is there a command I should obey? Is there a principle I need to put to work in my life? Is there an example I should follow?

So what can we learn from this familiar story? One thing that jumped out at me is in verse 6.6:

“So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.”

prayerThese were tough economic times for the children of Israel and they responded by “crying out to the Lord.”

Difficult times should drive us to prayer, as well, but passages like this should also remind us that ongoing consistent prayer for God’s wisdom can keep us from many of the consequences of our own foolishness which bring financial and other problems.

Continue reading

“Housewife or Superhero” April 19

 

"Housewife or Superhero?" Do you think you're too grown up to be a superhero? Today in the book of Judges, you will meet Jael, a housewife turned superhero.Do you think you’re too grown up to be a superhero? Today in the book of Judges, you will meet Jael, a housewife turned superhero.

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 3 & 4
Psalm 48.9-14
Proverbs 14.18-19
Luke 14.25-35

 

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Housewife turned superhero

The book of Judges contains some very interesting stories to say the least!

One of the more surprising, especially if you haven’t read it before, is the story of Jael and her tent peg! God used a “housewife,” a “tent-wife” in this case, to destroy Israel’s and God’s enemy with a hammer and a tent peg. Judges 4:

¹ When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.

A Prophetess named Deborah was judging Israel at this time. She had assured the people that God would give them victory over Sisera and Jabin’s army, but when Israel’s commander, Barak, refused to go to battle without Deborah, she told him, God would still deliver them, but he would get no glory for the victory. Instead, a woman would get the credit. Verse 15: Continue reading

“On ‘Forcing’ Religion on Your Children” April 18

 

On "Forcing" Religion on Your Children - Have you ever said, "I don't want to force my religion on my children. I'm just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves"? Today's reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.

Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 1 & 2
Psalm 48.1-8
Proverbs 14.15-17
Luke 14.1-24

 

A note of encouragement

If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.

Even if this is your first day visiting this blog, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!

 

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A generation who did not know the Lord

As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.

In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

 

Parental responsibility

More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.

We also need to be very careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on legalistic behavior that drives your children away from God.

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

“The Few, the Narrow Gate & the Gospel” April 17

 

"The Few the Narrow Gate & the Gospel" - Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel? That should be heart-breaking for those of us who understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today's post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!When an observer in Jesus’ time asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He warned that the gate is narrow. And when the people of Joshua’s day claimed that they would serve the Lord, he told them not to take that commitment lightly. Are there many today who have failed to heed those warnings? Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel?

That should be heart-breaking for those of us who understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today’s post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 23 & 24
Psalm 47.1-9
Proverbs 14.14
Luke 13.23-35

 

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The few, the narrow gate & the Gospel

What a rich portion of Scripture! Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he wants to leave everything in order. He takes time to remind the people about all God has done for them and encourages them to remember how He has been faithful to His Word.

In he warns them about intermarrying with unbelievers. This is still true today. If you are single and considering marriage or if you do in the future, remember, we are free to marry only in the Lord! (1 Cor. 7.39) – that is to another believer.

Then Joshua calls them to make a choice Continue reading

“Broken Down House” April 16

 

Paul Tripp compares our world to "a broken down house" where none of us is guaranteed a problem-free life.

Paul Tripp compares living in our world to life in “a broken down house” where none of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. In fact, we’re not even guaranteed tomorrow!

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 21 & 22
Psalm 46.7-11
Proverbs 14.12-13
Luke 13.1-22

 

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A broken down house

Verses 1-5:

1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Certainly, there are laws of sowing and reaping and we shouldn’t think we can live any way we desire without consequences. Galatians 6.7-10:

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

But even when we desire to live righteous lives, we should remember that we live in a world that Paul Tripp compares to “a broken down house” where the plumbing is bad, the roof leaks, and things don’t work right. Our world, our bodies, and even our minds, Continue reading

“The Accuser” April 15

 

the accuser

Satan, the accuser of the brethren, seldom rests. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse when it comes to serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God.

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 19 & 20
Psalm 46.1-6
Proverbs 14.7-11
Luke 12.32-59

 

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Cities of Refuge

Chapter 20 talks about the cities of refuge where someone accused of murder or manslaughter could run for safety until a judge could decide his or her fate. Otherwise their accuser might decide to take justice into his own hands.

Our next reading, Psalm 46, reminds us that God Himself is our Refuge from Satan, our accuser (Rev. 12.10). tells us that he accuses us day and night, sometimes in the throne room of God, as he did with Job. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse us about serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God by telling us that our efforts are inadequate or what we have done in the past is too bad and God will never use us.

Our Advocate

Either way, we have an Advocate. 1 John 1.7-9, 2.1-2:

7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

And Hebrews 7.25 says, “… He always lives to make intercession for us.”

If we have been regenerated, born again by the Spirit of God, then Christ has paid the price for our sins and Jesus, our Divine Attorney, is our Defender.

 

TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:

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God is our Refuge

This beautiful psalm should remind us from where true peace and stability come. The answer is not from government; even the greatest can fail. It’s not in our finances or our intelligence or anything else on earth. Only God is the “refuge and strength” that will never fail. If we fear God, we don’t need to fear anything else!  Continue reading

“Worry & Other Emotions: How Journaling Can Help” April 14

 

Worry & Other Negative Emotions: How Journaling Can Help

 What’s going on in your heart and mind? Is there peace and trust? Or worry and anxiety? How should we respond when anxiety or other negative emotions threaten to have their way? How might journaling help you in this area?

Even if you haven’t followed along lately, I hope you’ll take the time to read this post. Our thinking is so important and learning to think biblically makes all the difference in our emotional condition.

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 17 & 18
Psalm 45.6-17
Proverbs 14.6
Luke 12.1-31

 

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Our thinking controls our emotions

Verses repeat much of what we read in about worry and trust in God, but we can never hear these things enough. Verses 29-31:

29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

I especially like verse 29, “And do not … have an anxious mind.” Why are we so often anxious? What controls our emotions? It’s our thinking.

Matthew 15.18-19:

18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

We could extend that list to add many other things, good and bad, including worry and its opposite, trust. The Sovereign God who watches over all the details of life is watching over us. He knows what we need. Our focus is to be on doing the things that advance His kingdom. But if we’re not purposefully thinking and meditating on those things, our default modes of worry, anxiety, anger, gossip, etc., will take over.

 

Controlling our thoughts

So how do we learn to control our thoughtsContinue reading

“The Lens of Scripture” April 13

 

The Lens of Scripture

Our perception, the filter through which we “see” everything has a tremendous effect on our lives. I often tell people in counseling that we are affected much more by what we “think about” what happens to us that what actually happens.
So how do you view the events of your life? What is your filter? Are you seeing through the lens of Scripture and the sovereignty of God or through the world’s lens?

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 15 & 16
Psalm 45.1-5
Proverbs 14.4-5
Luke 11.29-54

 

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The lens of Scripture

Verse 34, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.”

John MacArthur in his Daily Bible says, “The problem was their perception, not a lack of light.”

Our perception, the filter through which we “see” everything has a tremendous effect on our lives. I often tell people in counseling that we are affected much more by what we “think about” what happens to us that what actually happens.

As believers and children of the Sovereign God of the Universe, we should filter everything through the lens of Romans 8.28-29 for starters:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

comparing shoes

When we’re tempted to compare ourselves to someone else financially, socially or career wise, is it because we are envious or do we trust our loving heavenly Father to know what’s best for us?

When we must forgive – again – do we remember how much we’ve been forgiven and forgive graciously, or do we hold a grudge, give the silent treatment, or hold out for proof the other person really means it?  Continue reading