Imagine your loved one had been struck and killed by a drunk driver. And now that driver is standing before the judge. He’s sober now, but he’s haughty and unrepentant, even defiant. How would you feel if the judge said, “It’s OK. You’re free to go. No big deal”? You wouldn’t think he was good. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a righteous judge.
In reality, that driver would be worthy of death. But would a death sentence be the worst that could happen? Is there actually more than one kind of death?
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.
7 The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.
God is patient and merciful (“slow to anger”). His desire is that all would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.4).
But He can’t be good and be a liar. He can’t be a righteous judge and give evil a pass (“acquit the wicked”). There is a debt to be paid for sin in the court of heaven. For those who put their faith and trust in what Christ did on the cross, it has been paid in full, but for those who reject the truth, the penalty is death.
But physical death is not the end. We will all live forever. The question is … “Where?”
Death is separation. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden they were separated from God. They no longer had the spirit to Spirit communion with Him they had enjoyed. They didn’t die physically, at least not immediately, though they would since they were, also, barred from eating from the tree of life.
As their children, we are all born spiritually dead and unless Jesus returns before then, we will die physically.
Many believe the goal of life is happiness. Even when we say we know better, we often live like it is. What should the goal of life be for a believer?
Our reading in Revelation tells us about the Two Witnesses. With fire to devour their enemies, the power to shut heaven, turn water to blood, and strike the earth with plagues, they will warn, preach, and prophesy during the first half of the Tribulation.
6 With what shall I come before the LORD,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
1 Samuel 15.22 says it this way:
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.”
And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
10 Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. 11 And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”
How bittersweet the revelation John was shown. There was the sweet anticipation of God’s promises: His protection, the removal of His church before the beginning of the Tribulation, and ultimately His return and millennial reign. But there was also the bitterness of His judgment on those who refuse Him. We should be grieved over the rejecters of Christ and their eternal separation from Him.
As Christmas approaches and we rehear the story of Christ’s birth, it’s exciting to see the prophecy Herod’s counselors relied on when they told him Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of the king:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic.5.2)
8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
9 The LORD is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Just as we saw in the book of Jonah, God is full of compassion and mercy for His creation. He is not a hateful God, trying to keep everyone He can out of heaven, but a loving Savior, who stands ready to forgive and save!
Just as in Micah’s day, one of the devil’s oldest tricks is to get men and women to put their hope in a lie. Even though it is often what they want to hear, it leads to despair when they realize their hope was fixed on a lie. How could you be misplacing your hope?
And in our New Testament reading …
In Revelation 9 the fifth and sixth trumpets sound! The fifth releases swarming locust-like demons with tails like scorpions. Their stings will leave people begging to die, but not even able to commit suicide. And the sixth is even worse.
Like many in our culture today, the people in Micah’s time rejected God’s truth (2.6). They dismissed the prophets as “prattlers” or babblers. But God said, the real “babblers” are false prophets who tell people what they want to hear (2.11). Furthermore God warned them of a time when their false prophets would be exposed for the fakes they were and discredited, leaving the people with no hope, because they had put their hope in a lie (3.6-7):
6 “Therefore you shall have night without vision,
And you shall have darkness without divination;
The sun shall go down on the prophets,
And the day shall be dark for them.
7 So the seers shall be ashamed,
And the diviners abashed;
Indeed they shall all cover their lips;
For there is no answer from God.”
Deception is one of Satan’s oldest tricks. Jesus said he is the “father of lies” (Jn. 8.44). Just as he did in the garden where Eve put her hope in his lies, he first plants seeds of doubt by implying, “Did God really say …?”
“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3.1).
But sooner or later he simply calls God a liar:
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3.4-5)
There is no end to the lies people place their hope in today. Lies such as: Continue reading →
Hi Everyone, I apologize. Some code must be corrupted in this post. I have tried everything to eliminate it. Removing photos, redoing things. Nothing seems to help. But the linkup is working.
Last week in Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust we talked about the two major pitfalls into which parents in blended families fall: either becoming overly focused on the children’s outward behavior or turning their children into victims. Today we’re going to talk about biblical communication and God’s methodology for change.
Some children in blended families adjust quickly and easily, but others struggle with fear, worry, anger, and loyalty conflicts.
Children may be angry about losing their position in the family, losing the dream of their original family being restored, unwanted changes, jealousy toward new step-siblings or any number of other things.
One of the most important skills in overcoming anger and building good relationships is learning how to communicate in a loving, God-honoring way. Ephesians 4 contains some of the clearest passages on the subject of communication. The principles can be summed up in 4 easy to understand “rules” that you can apply and teach your children.
4 Rules of Communication
Attack the problem, not the person.
Act, don’t react.
Ephesians 4.25 says:
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
Sounds simple enough, but being honest is more that just not telling a lie. It’s, also, more than blurting out the unadulterated truth. It involves being open and transparent in a loving way.
The first part of being honest is to communicate. “Let each of you speak …”
The second part is to speak truth. It’s not enough to just “not lie.” We must also speak truth.
For example: If, after you and your husband agreed not to make any unnecessary purchases, you put those shoes you wanted on your credit card, slipped them into the house when you’re husband wasn’t home, and simply never brought it up, you may not have lied, but your weren’t being honest either.
Our children need to understand the same principle. Instead of just punishing them for not telling you about a bad grade, sit down and explain why it’s wrong from God’s Word. Let them know that you struggle with living God’s way, too. Use it as an opportunity to teach them how much we need His help to live His way. Turn it into a gospel moment.
Whether they listen attentively or roll their eyes, you’re planting seeds.
So we and our children are to speak and to speak truth, but we must also learn to speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4.15 says:
[B]ut, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
For example: If your child grew up learning to make his bed and keep his room reasonably neat and now shares a room with a step-sibling who doesn’t seem to know what a clothes hanger or a hamper is, the answer isn’t to tell his sibling he’s a slob.
Instead, help him learn to pray (another gospel moment) and ask God for wisdom about talking to his brother. It could be something like, “Hey, I’m not crazy about cleaning the room either. I used to resent it when my mom made me stay home until I did. But I learned it’s easier to just get it over with. It looks better when my friends come to hang out, too. Can I give you a hand?”
So rule #1 is: “Be honest.” Speak. Speak the truth. Speak the truth in love. Continue reading →
You may think you know the story of Jonah, but there is so much more for us to learn from his book. There is the fact that disobedience and running from God can land us in some pretty nasty circumstances. But there is, also, a great lesson in God’s mercy and willingness to forgive in the rest of the story.
Our New Testament reading is from Revelation 8 with the beginning of the seven trumpet judgments. The first four are horrible enough, but before the fifth one sounds an angel cries, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet …”
Most of us grew up hearing the story of Jonah in Sunday school or at least had some vague idea of what it was all about. But there is so much more to be learned from this little book.
Jonah received a call from God to go to the capital of Assyria, the city of Nineveh. The Assyrians were the enemies of Israel and Judah. Instead of obeying God he got on a ship going in the opposite direction only to have God bring a fierce storm against the ship. He ended up being thrown overboard, though reluctantly, by the crew when they realized that it was the only way to save the ship and themselves. Jonah 1:
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.
They recognized God’s hand in what was happening, and the text says they feared Him and offered sacrifices to Him. Even God’s judgment can cause people to turn to Him.
Back to Jonah himself. Don’t you wonder what it was like to be inside that fish’s belly for three days and three nights? God knows just how to get our attention. We don’t know everything that went through his mind, but chapter 2 gives us some insight:
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said.
“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
Even though he had been disobedient and was running from God, he turned back to Him in his time of trouble.
He knew God was faithful:
4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
7 “ When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD.”
10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”
Do you ever take silent pleasure when someone who has criticized or mistreated you falls or suffers a setback? As believers, should we rejoice that “what goes around comes around”? You might be surprised at what God told the Edomites about that!
Also read about the importance of trusting in God’s timing and more about the Tribulation. This time the eerie calm between the time the 6th and 7th seals are opened.
The two verses that really jumped out at me were 12 & 13:
12 “ But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother
In the day of his captivity;
Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah
In the day of their destruction;
Nor should you have spoken proudly
In the day of distress.
13 You should not have entered the gate of My people
In the day of their calamity.
Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction
In the day of their calamity,
Nor laid hands on their substance
In the day of their calamity.
God was rebuking the nation of Edom, the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. These distant cousins took pleasure in the fall of Israel and Judah. They rejoiced in their calamity and even took advantage of the situation, perhaps by pillaging the city after it was deserted.
How much more as believers in Jesus Christ—those who have God’s Holy Spirit resident within us—should we guard our hearts against any such thing, whether with our biological family or our brothers and sisters in Christ! We are told to love, help and pray for even our enemies, to say nothing of those who are part of our family.
And yet, we sometimes take silent pleasure when someone who has criticized us falls, or in thinking “what goes around comes around!” While it is true that there are laws of sowing and reaping, we should be grieved not happy when it happens. We should pray for God to use it for good to turn that unbeliever to Christ or to cause a sinning brother or sister to repent, turn back to God, and live rightly.
I so sorry the linkup is late. My mom fell a couple of weeks ago and broke her hip. I’m staying with her for a while and just got her home from rehab yesterday. Please keep her in your prayers, not just for her healing, but for her to come to know the Lord.
Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust
Over the last two weeks in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households” and “Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil,” we have been looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We, also, looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any particular situation and how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. Last week we talked about ways to live in peace and solve problems. Today and next week, we’ll discuss how to help your children and step-children adjust to blended family life and some of the issues that may need to be addressed.
When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied:
37 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22.37-39 NLT).
This can be challenging in all families as people live with one another day after day, seeing each other in the best and worst of circumstances. It’s especially challenging as we seek to blend two families into one.
Yet, no where is it more important that we, especially parents, live out these commands. We won’t do it perfectly, but we can do it humbly and imperfectly, by relying on God’s grace. Doing so is important to our children’s view of Christianity.
Loving Though They Didn’t Choose
While their parents chose a partner, children are called to love people with whom they didn’t choose to live. In the process, their hearts are exposed as they’re forced to share, submit to parental authority, to give, and to love. And while all families face change from time to time, children in a blended families often face sudden and drastic change.
Some of the changes might be:
Position of priority with the biological parent
The need to share a room
A change of school
A change of neighbors
Loss of contact with extended family
And we could add many more.
Two Major Pitfalls
Parents in blended families can easily fall into one or both of two major pitfalls.
The first is to get focused merely on outward behavior without addressing the heart. Parents may come up with a rule for everything. The focus becomes all about complying with those house rules. Of course, some rules are OK, but focusing on compliance without dealing with heart issues creates little pharisees, at best.
Children learn to live in that economy. They learn how to get what they want by keeping the rules and, often, learn to manipulate by showing the right amount of penitence over bad behavior. Then when they’re out from under their parents’ authority, they begin to live out of the thoughts and motives that were in their hearts all along. They go away to collage or leave home and quit doing what’s right. Continue reading →
Last week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we began looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any situation and began talking about how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. This week we’ll discuss more ways we can seek to live in peace and solve problems.
Last week I left off with the question, “What if, after all your planning and attempts to handle a particular situation wisely and well, your ex is not willing to work with you or solve the problem?”
I said your first reaction might be to return evil for evil or at least to withhold any good. I encouraged you to remember that is not a God-honoring option (Rom. 12.17-21), that God will not allow you to be in any situation that you cannot handle in a righteous way (1 Cor. 10.13), and that He promises to use every situation for your good and His glory by helping us become more like Christ (Rom. 8.28-29).
Now let’s look at that Romans 12 passage again:
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VengeanceisMine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This passage instructs us to do all that we can to live at peace with others. There’s no exception for former spouses. It also says that we are not to seek revenge or return evil for evil. And unless an ex or the new spouse is doing something illegal (in which case we need to involve the proper authorities), we are to overcome evil with good.
Returning evil with evil comes naturally and returning evil with good feels awkward, at first. And there are, usually, well-meaning friends and family members telling us to do the opposite. But this is an opportunity to determine to live in ways that are pleasing to God (2 Cor. 5.9), rather than ourselves or others.
What are some ways we can overcome evil with good?
Returning Evil with Good
Ways to return evil with good:
Take your children shopping to buy Christmas or birthday gifts for your ex and his or her spouse.
Be flexible with visitation.
Allow him or her to have the children for a holiday or another special day.
Acknowledge them and, possibly, sit with them at events in which your children participate.
Invite them to your child’s birthday celebration, graduation party, or other special event.
Send cookies or some other treat when the children visit.
Speak well of them to others.
Meet a need (send a meal when someone is sick, etc.).
Buy birthday or special occasion gifts for your children’s step-siblings.
Pray for them.
Brainstorm other ideas and share them in the comments section.
As Much as It Depends on You
Notice verse 18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We are to do our part and leave the results with God. We’re not to quit because our efforts aren’t appreciated, fret about it, or expect something in return.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm (Ps. 27.7-8).
When we do something only to get a certain result, our motives are wrong. Our desire should be to please God (2 Cor. 5.9), not to get our ex-spouse to change. Things may change, but if that’s our primary motivation, we’ll quit if we don’t get the result we desire.
We, also, need to have a biblical view of success. We’re successful when we obey God. If we’re right with God in our attitudes and actions we can have peace and joy whether or not our circumstances change.
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (Jn. 10.9-11).
A note of caution: While we should apply these principles, we always need to remember that our current spouse is our priority. Don’t pour time and energy into your relationship with your ex that rightfully belongs to your spouse and be careful to include him or her in your plans to overcome evil with good.
Prepare for Life in a Sin-Cursed World
We live in a sin-cursed world and we need to know that people will sin against us.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you areblessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Pet. 3.14-17).
So we need to prepare for it. My husband told me once that every day as he prays, he chooses in advance to forgive anyone who sins against him. We need to plan to forgive and extend grace to others whether or not they deserve it. It’s the way God deals with us. We, also, need to plan how to overcome evil with good. Even when we know we should, it won’t just happen.
One of the hardest times to do it is when we believe our children are being hurt by the other parent’s inconsiderate or sinful behavior. For example, it’s your ex’s week-end to have the kids, but he or she never shows up. Continue reading →
Before you know it the New Year will be here. I hope your New Year’s plans include reading through the Bible in a year in 2017. Reading, studying, meditating on and obeying God’s Word should be our lifelong adventure.
No matter how much you have gotten out of your reading in the Scriptures this year, you will get abundantly more during the next and the next and the next! Continue reading →