Congratulations to those of you who have been reading all year and to those who started somewhere along the way. I hope you’re looking forward to starting again in the coming year.
As we read in Malachi today, let’s purpose in our hearts to give God our best in 2017 … to offer Him the firstfruits of our time in the morning … to be faithful with our tithes and offerings … to use our talents and resources to further His kingdom, to bring Him glory in all we do, and to honor Him in our marriages or our singleness or whatever our situation!
Our final passage in Proverbs pictures “the virtuous wife.” How do the characteristics of this ancient model speak to us today?
Finally, as you read the final 2 chapters of Revelation, allow John’s vision of the glories to come excite your heart!
As is all of God’s Word, this little book is rich with His truth. In chapter 1 we see the importance of giving God our best, not what is left over, whether that means finances, time, talent or some other resource.
God rebuked the people because, instead of giving the best of their flocks as a sacrifice, they offered the stolen, the lame and the sick animals.
Many times, instead of giving God our best we give Him what’s left over, if anything. We can’t tithe or give to the work of God because we are too strapped with huge mortgages and car payments. Perhaps we need to drive that older vehicle a little longer or adjust our budgets in other ways.
Instead of spending time with Him first thing in the morning, we rush off to work or get busy with our day, promising to read His Word before we go to sleep. At night, we’re too exhausted to read more than a few verses before we fall asleep without giving it serious thought or attention.
I don’t want to sound legalistic, because the Bible does not say we must spend time with God first thing in the morning. There may be some who are at their best at night. I also understand that some of you have young children who, as someone said, “Wake up at the first crack of the Bible.” But for most of us, morning is the time when we are most rested and when spending time with God is the most profitable.
In chapter 2 God rebukes the priests because, among other things, they took the covenant relationship of marriage lightly. And remember as new covenant believers we are all priests to the Lord (1 Pet. 2.5).
First, they knowingly disobeyed God by marrying unbelievers (2.11). Then those who were married were divorcing their wives: Continue reading →
The Bible is not a series of books about God. It is one book, penned by numerous human authors, and inspired by God. It is His story told through His continuing revelation of Himself to mankind. The more you read it, the more you see how the books, the prophesies, the stories, and the letters fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. In today’s O.T. reading Zechariah prophesied hundreds of years earlier about many of the things Jesus showed John in the book of Revelation.
And as we continue to read through the book of Revelation, today we learn about two final judgments. One day every person will stand before God at one of them: “the great white throne judgment” or “the judgment seat of Christ.” Where will you stand?
Well, we’re almost there. I pray that many of you have read more of God’s Word than you have in the past. Notice I said “more of God’s Word.” Though many of you finished the goal, I know some of you are weeks or even months behind or maybe you quit after a few months, or maybe it’s been in fits and starts. But did you read more of God’s Word in 2016 than you had before or did you get more out of your reading than you had previously? If so, it’s been a successful endeavor!
If you have a testimony about how reading God’s Word impacted your life this year, I’d love for you to share it in the comments section.
Zechariah prophesied beginning about 520 B.C., but did you notice that he prophesied many of the same things Jesus revealed to the aging Apostle John toward the end of the first century A.D. and recorded in the book of Revelation?
We see the same picture of Jesus coming back the second time as the King of kings and Lord of lords, his feet touching down on the Mount of Olives followed by a great earthquake and the destruction of Satan’s armies.
We also see the description of Christ as the Shepherd (13.7) which David wrote about in Psalm 23 and Jesus called Himself in John 10. He is the Good Shepherd who gave up His life for the sheep (Jn. 10.11).
The more you read and study God’s Word, the more you see that it is not a series of books about God. It is one book, penned by numerous human authors, but inspired by God. Just as a writer controls his pen or writing instrument, God superimposed himself over the hearts and minds of his instruments, the human authors (2 Pet. 1.21).
It is His story told through His continuous revelation of Himself to mankind.
Today we’ll talk about the danger of believing lies, whether about some false religion or about our right to nurse our wounds and refuse to forgive.
We’ll also continue our study in Revelation as the final conflict approaches.
There are only two more days in 2016. Have you set a goal for your Bible reading in 2017? Have you invited someone else to join you? Let’s bring others along as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3.18).
“For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd.”
Yesterday we talked about “Babylon the Great,” and how the world’s religious and socioeconomic system will be destroyed at the end of the age. We also talked about the allure of false religions. So often, what makes false religion so alluring is because it tells us what we want to hear.
It tells us we’re “OK” if we just keep these rules. It even enables us to feel self-righteous because all those “other people” outside our group don’t get it!
Or it tells us that god is within us and we just need to reach some higher level of spirituality and that we can do so by meditating on this mantra or using this substance. This appeals to the self-delusion that we are more spiritual than someone else.
The lure of false religion is one of the reasons we get so enthralled with things like “The DaVinci Code” and tales of “lost gospels.” It’s the appeal of Gnosticism, the belief in some hidden knowledge, not available to the “less enlightened.” It’s the appeal of the Masonic Temple and many “secret” organizations.
It’s the appeal of martyrdom for Allah and the reward of “100 virgins” or of giving up your life to live in a monastery forsaking all earthly possessions. It’s the deception of Continue reading →
Verse 3 says, “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
Just as wine can entice and weaken the resolve of the one drinking it and can blind one to the truth, the wine of false religion can blind, as well. It can be legalism (believing that rules and sacraments can save you), new age spirituality, today’s version of religious tolerance (believing that all roads somehow lead to God), or any kind of religious fanaticism.
Whether a person is fanatically religious in a pseudo-Christian way, fanatically atheistic, fanatically pro-abortion or pro-gay, or a fanatical Muslim or white supremacist, it has an appeal that can be intoxicating. This helps explain why men and women are willing to fly airplanes into buildings, strap on suicide vests or turn a gun on strangers and co-workers alike.
And just as religious idolatry can make a person drunk, so too, wealth, abundance and a focus on material things can drug a person into a materialistic stupor, “the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
Eventually the world’s false systems of religion and economics will come to an end, but we must guard against any vestige of them in our lives even now.
Ephesians 5 says:
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
God does not want us to be drunk with wine or religion or any earthly thing, but rather to be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. When we do, just as drunkenness affects a person’s walk and life, the filling of the Spirit will affect the way we walk and live.
Verse 7.5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests. ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?’”
Fasting was a sign of repentance and humility and recognition of sin. God was asking the people if their fasting was merely a religious exercise or done because they were broken over their sin and rebellion against Him.
Oftentimes, we express outward sorrow and regret over our sin, but we must ask ourselves, are we sorry because we don’t like the consequences of our sin? Are we more like children who are about to be punished for some misdeed, crying, “I’m sorry; I’m sorry! I won’t do it again!” Or are we truly broken and repentant?
The first is worldly sorrow. It’s sorrow over the consequences and over the messes we make.
The second is godly sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to changes in our actions, not just outward expressions of sorrow.
It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death (2 Cor. 7.9b-10 NLT).
Do you feel beaten and bruised from raising a strong-willed child or by being in a difficult marriage? Have you recently faced a devastating loss or were the holidays especially difficult? How do you keep going when life seems to be full of challenges? Not in your own strength, but …
Verse 4.6 says, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.
Sixteen years previously, doubt, discouragement and opposition had caused the Jews to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel was God’s chosen leader and this word from God was meant to be an encouragement to him that they were to finish the task God had given them.
This should be an encouragement to us, as well, when we feel beaten and bruised or when God has called us to some challenge—whether raising a strong-willed child, honoring Christ in the midst of a difficult marriage, growing a ministry, or serving Him in the workplace. It is not by might, not by our own strength or abilities, but through God’s power that we will succeed.
[Tweet “How do you raise a difficult child or handle other challenges? Not by might, but …” #soulsurvival]
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When we come to Him boldly in prayer, He promises to give us the help and the grace we need in every situation.
And James 1.2-7 says:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Today’s readings cover everything from the lens we should use when we view our circumstances and how we “see” God to the danger of social upheaval. We’ll, also, look at more of God’s judgment during the Tribulation as He continues to turn up the heat. Here in Revelation 16 God pours out the seven bowls judgments. Part of which includes: incurable sores, water turned to blood, intense heat, darkness, floods, earthquakes, and unbearable pain.
God’s people had spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon (1.12). Now the first group of exiles, including Zechariah, had returned to Jerusalem.
They had begun rebuilding the temple, but had become indifferent, more focused on their personal lives than God’s agenda (Hag. 1.1-11). God used Haggai to call them to repentance and a re-commitment to God’s priorities.
Now Zechariah was to encourage them and keep them moving ahead. He reminded them of God’s promises, especially the promise that Messiah would one day come and inhabit the temple.
I imagine the people returned to Jerusalem excited to start rebuilding. But when the work turned out to be hard and God’s enemies attacked them (Neh. 4.7-9), they must have lost their enthusiasm. Perhaps the people of Zechariah’s day began to allow their circumstances to dictate what they believed about God.
That can be a temptation for us, too. When things don’t work out the way we had planned or when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we desire, we weaken or give up altogether. We begin to believe He no longer loves us or conclude that He isn’t really good. Continue reading →
I’m praying you have a safe, restful, and joy-filled Christmas.
I love and appreciate each one of you. I’m amazed and blessed by the abundance of good, biblical posts so many of you share on this linkup and on your own sites. May the coming year be a productive one where God’s Word has free reign to impact lives for His kingdom.
But I, also, know the holidays can be stressful and even sad for those who have suffered loss in the past year or so. If that’s you, may the God of peace be with you. May He comfort your heart in a way that makes His power and presence all the more real.
There’s no new “Blended Families” post today, but you can still linkup. If you have missed any of the earlier posts in the series, I’ve included links to them all.
Mondays @ Soul Survival is a place to share your insights about God and His Word, parenting, marriage, homemaking, organization and more. Feel free to link up multiple posts as long as they are family friendly. Remember this is a Christian site.
I pray that you are enjoying a wonderful day rejoicing in the birth of our Savior (or looking forward to it if you’re reading this early like I do)!
I look forward to another year of growing in the grace and knowledge of our great God along with each of you in 2017!
This is the time of year for evaluating priorities and setting goals for the coming year. Don’t forget to consider God’s priorities as you do. God had something to say to the people in Haggai’s day on that very subject.
Verse 1.5b sums up the theme of this book when it says, “… ‘Consider your ways!’” God repeated the admonition in 1.7.
The blessings of the Lord were missing from the people’s lives because their priorities were all wrong.
6 “ You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”
They were more concerned about their own homes and personal comfort than they were with the work of God. And it wasn’t working out so well for them!
As we approach the New Year, how are “your ways”—your priorities? Are you interested in what God is interested? Are you giving into the work of God? Do you tithe or just give God what is left over, if anything? What if you decided to take God at His Word this coming year and give Him the firstfruits?
Those of us who have decided to trust God with our finances, can tell you that when you give Him the first 10% God will cause the 90% to go so much further than you could possibly stretch it. Pray and ask Him to help you take that step of faith, if you have not already.
And what about your time priorities? Do you make time for church each week? Do you take time to pray and read God’s Word? Do you have a plan to grow in your relationship with Him?
We can have all the good intentions in the world, but those things don’t just happen. We need to plan for them. We don’t have to get legalistic about it. There are times when we are providentially hindered from keeping our commitments: sick kids, travel, and other things.
But, why not make an appointment to meet with God on a regular basis? Even a few minutes of prayer, Bible reading, journaling, etc. can make a big impact on our lives and relationships with God.
“The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”
Do you “fear the Lord”—that is do you take Him at His Word and have more concern about what He thinks rather than anything or anyone else? In what are you placing your hope? Is it your abilities? Your job? Your spouse? Or anything else, rather than the Lord?
“This is the way of an adulterous woman. She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wickedness.’”
Just as a woman can be seduced by an unscrupulous man, many a man has fallen into the trap of an adulterous, carnal woman.
Proverbs 7 says:
21 With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.
22 Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
23 Till an arrow struck his liver.
As a bird hastens to the snare,
He did not know it would cost his life.
Ladies, we must be on our guard all the time and purpose to stay pure, in our thoughts and attitudes, and to stay focused on God and His will for our lives.
Galatians 5.16-17 says, “… Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
There is a battle going on. It’s waged first and foremost in the spiritual realm. Continue reading →
Like all great books, the last chapters in God’s Word are “hold-your-breath” exciting. Today we’ll talk about “The King” who was born as a babe but will one day return in power and glory. The climax will be a great battle where the fighting will be so fierce that the blood will be four feet deep in places and take place over an area of 200 square miles.
In the final days of the Tribulation, people will be given one last chance to hear and believe the gospel. An angel will offer them that last chance, but warn them if they take the mark of the beast, their eternity will be sealed for all time. And those of us who die before that time must decide, before we die, because there’s no purgatory, no last chance to realize “Oops, I made a mistake!”
We’ll also talk about seduction, not just the devil’s open seduction of many in the last days, but sexual seduction in personal relationships.
And speaking of great books, did you know that the Bible is the best selling book of all time? Of course, it’s not just any book. It is God’s revelation of Himself to all mankind, penned by men, but breathed out from the heart and mind of God.
Be sure to think about how you will get to know this greatest of all books. And don’t forget to talk to anyone else God has placed on your heart about reading through the Bible this coming year. I would love it if you would share this post on your favorite social media. Also, The MacArthur Daily Bible would make a great and reasonably priced last minute Christmas gift. It may be just the motivation someone needs to get started!
I pray that today will be a restful day without too many last minute things to do. Let’s all remember to take time tonight and tomorrow to think about what it all means … which is so much more than all the commercial hustle and bustle. And I hope you will make time to attend a worship service.
When Mike and I were talking about the book of Zephaniah, we were reminded of a scene in the first Narnia movie. In the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the conversation goes like this:
“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
During the Tribulation the final Antichrist will rise to power. All those who want to buy and sell will be required wear his name or his number 666 on their right hand or foreheads and all who dwell on earth will be deceived into worshiping him, except those whose names are written in the Book of Life of the Lamb.
Also, are the wicked “getting away with murder?” Habakkuk thought so. How about you?
1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Satan will summon one of his demons to come up out of the abyss. This demon will control the man who is Antichrist.
3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
During the Tribulation the final Antichrist will rise to power. That power will come from Satan himself. Many will be deceived into worshiping him and at one point he will, at least appear to, die and be raised from the dead, causing many more to worship him.
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
All but genuine believers will be deceived into worshiping him.
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.
This is Antichrist’s sidekick, so to speak. He will promote him and encourage others to worship him. He is the final false prophet. He will force people to wear the mark of the beast if they wish to buy or sell and will have people killed for refusing to worship Antichrist. But those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and whose names have been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb will be protected from this deception.
It’s encouraging to know that people can and will be saved during the Tribulation, but it will be an unprecedented time of trial and persecution for those who are. And, as I said yesterday, it’s a bittersweet reality that many will reject the truth and continue to do so, in spite of, the events going on.
All the more reason to pray and share the gospel so those God has placed in our paths will be spared from the hardships and terror of that time.
In chapter 1 Habakkuk has been crying out to God about the sin and wickedness all around him. He sees the righteous being mistreated and wicked people “getting away with murder,” as we might say today. God responds by telling him, he is going to judge the guilty in short order. But He will do so by allowing an even more evil government, the Chaldeans, to come in and take over as an instrument of His judgment.
The prophet is at first shocked and questions God’s method. He reminds God of His own character and points out that the Chaldeans will take the credit and use their success to worship their own false gods and military might.