“Don’t lose heart, cave in or give up!” March 25

 

Don't lose heart, cave in or give up! - Do you feel discouraged in some area? Feel like caving in or giving up? Don't lose heart! God is faithful. Wait on Him.Do you feel discouraged in some area? Feel like caving in or giving up? Don’t lose heart! God is faithful. Wait on Him.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 11 & 12
Psalm 37.18-22
Proverbs 12.12
Luke 2.1-24

 

Don’t lose heart, cave in or give up!

 

Deuteronomy 11 & 12:

Don’t Lose Heart

 

There is so much worth commenting on in these two chapters but let’s focus on 11.16 which says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.” Maybe you’re feeling discouraged about something, maybe even thinking about giving up.

Maybe you have been trying to walk with the Lord, trying to read your Bible, trying to grow and be the husband or wife, father or mother God has called you to be. Maybe you have been waiting for your husband, your wife, or someone else to come to know the Lord. Maybe you have been waiting for God to answer some other prayer. Continue reading

“Self-Righteousness, ‘The Shack’ & Cosmic Over-Reactions” March 24

 

Self-Righteousness & "The Shack" & Cosmic Over-Reactions" - Self-Righteousness, 'The Shack' & Cosmic Over-Reactions: What on earth do they have to do with one another? Why should those of us who know Christ be concerned about something that is "just a movie"?Self-Righteousness, ‘The Shack’ & Cosmic Over-Reactions: What on earth do they have to do with one another? Why should those of us who know Christ be concerned about something that is “just a movie”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 9 & 10
Psalm 37.12-17
Proverbs 12.11
Luke 1.57-80

 

Self-Righteousness, ‘The Shack’ & Cosmic Over-Reactions

 

Deuteronomy 9 & 10:

Righteousness versus Self-Righteousness

 

In today’s reading, God, through Moses, emphasized that He would bless the Israelites, not because of their righteousness, not because they deserved it, but because of His mercy.

C.J. Mahaney says in his book, The Cross Centered Life:

“Everything in the Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ and enriches our understanding of the cross (see Luke 24.27). The drama of redemption begins in the Garden in Genesis 3 and continues to unfold throughout the Old Testament until it reaches its climax at the cross. All along the way the Divine Author prepares us for Calvary. The symbolism of the sacrificial system, the strictness of the law, the repeated failures of man, the steadfast faithfulness of God—all this and more deepens our amazement at the cross.”

 

Thankfully, like the Israelites, our position with God does not depend upon our own righteousness. As Paul Tripp says, in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, we cannot boast in our righteousness because we don’t have any (Phil. 3.9)! We are all sinners saved by grace alone (Eph. 2.8-9) and have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3.21-23). His righteousness was imputed to us on the basis of His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf.

But like the Israelites we need to remind ourselves of that fact, because in our pride and self-sufficiency, we see ourselves as basically good (Prov. 20.6). If we are basically good, perhaps with some minor character flaws, then, as someone has said, the cross was “a cosmic over-reaction for a people who only had a case of spiritual sniffles.” That kind of thinking is not only wrong, but it keeps many from seeing their need for Christ.

Many people expect to spend eternity in heaven because they don’t believe they’re all that bad. They have some vague idea that God will weigh their misdeeds against all the good things they’ve done and they’ll manage to “get in.”

A friend told me last night about a quote he’d read. The writer said that Adam and Eve’s sin was basically “petty theft.” Of course, we know they weren’t condemned because they stole fruit. They were condemned because of their disobedience. They broke God’s law, His direct command. But the Apostle John said, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3.4).

I grew up believing that pretty much everyone went to heaven. We believed “in” God, but sadly, a god of our own creation, like those in the popular book and movie The Shack, who loves everyone and who wouldn’t let anyone go to hell.

Perhaps you say, come on, Donna, it’s just a movie! That’s true. But how many of us who grew up watching the movie The 10 Commandments would admit that our conception of those events has been colored by images from the movie or that watching The Passion of the Christ impacted our understanding of the events of the crucifixion.  Continue reading

“Cats, Dogs & Animal Rights” March 23

 

Cats, Dogs & Animal Rights - Whether we're dog people or cat people, most of us love our animals. But what does the Bible say about our pets? What about animal rights? And what about humans, are we just higher forms of animals? How should a Christian view his or her animals? See our Proverbs reading.

We hear a lot about “animal rights” these days. It has become a cause for celebrities and others—almost a religion with some. But what does the Bible say about our animals.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 7 & 8
Psalm 37.5-11
Proverbs 12.9-10
Luke 1.39-56

 

Cats, Dogs & Animal Rights

 

Proverbs 12.9-10:

Love Your Cats & Dogs, But …

 

We hear a lot about “animal rights” these days. It has become a cause for celebrities and others—almost a religion with some.

Animal rights written on yellow road sign over blue sky.

Animals certainly are a part of God’s creation. And as verse 10 says, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal …” A righteous man will treat his animals well, but animals are not on an equal par with people! We are not just higher forms of animals. We were made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1.26-27) and He breathed His Spirit into us (Gen. 2.7) giving us an eternal soul.

1 Corinthians 15.39 says, “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.”

So love you cat or dog, your hamster or gerbil and take good care of them as part of God’s creation. Enjoy them, but keep your affection and regard for them in the right place.

 

TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:

 

Deuteronomy 7 & 8:

Remember … Remember … Remember!

 

Remember … remember … remember! This seems to be the theme of much of today’s Old Testament reading.

When you’re afraid of your enemies, remember what I did to Egypt when they tried to keep you in bondage. When you’re afraid the task is too big for you, remember what I did for you in the wilderness. And when you have experienced success, remember Who enabled you to be where you are!

And God reminds us … Continue reading

“10 Steps to Parenting God’s Way” March 22

 

10 Steps to Parenting God's Way - I couldn't decide what to title this post. There were so many things I wanted to highlight. I could have called it "Parenting 101" or "Delighting in the Lord" from Psalm 37 or "Wisdom, Respect & Stupidity" from our Proverbs reading. Or even, "Mary, Saint or Sinner" because there is so much confusion about the mother of Jesus. Does she intercede for believers? How should a Christian view her? You can read more about this in today's New Testament commentary. But because I like these posts to be practical, something you can put to use in your life today, I decided to focus on the practical ways we can apply God's parenting principles.I couldn’t decide what to title this post. There were so many things I wanted to highlight. I could have called it “Parenting 101” or “Delighting in the Lord” from Psalm 37 or “Wisdom, Respect & Stupidity” from our Proverbs reading.

Or even, “Mary, Saint or Sinner” because there is so much confusion about the mother of Jesus. Does she intercede for believers? How should a Christian view her? You can read more about this in today’s New Testament commentary.

But because I like these posts to be practical, something you can put to use in your life today, I decided to focus on the practical ways we can apply God’s parenting principles.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 5 & 6
Psalm 37.1-4
Proverbs 12.9
Luke 1.21-38

 

10 Steps to Parenting God’s Way

 

Deuteronomy 5 & 6:

Parenting 101

 

Chapter 6.6-9 is one of the clearest passages on parenting. It says:

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

First we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts. Then we are to faithfully teach it to our children, not just in formal ways, but as we go about our everyday activities—when we are relaxing at home or having a family dinner, when we are out running errands, when we go to bed at night and the first thing in the morning.

We should constantly look for ways to incorporate spiritual lessons into the events of everyday life. But we can’t do that unless He is an ever present reality in our own lives—unless we’re aware of His involvement all the time, in the daily routine of life.

Do you stop to consider what He says when you feel the pressure to make a sale at work? When you have a fussy child? When the waiter gets your order wrong? When you feel unjustly accused? When someone just zipped into your parking space?

Do you seek His guidance when faced with a decision or a choice to respond to some person or situation? Do you seek His peace when your are anxious or His ability to forgive when angry?

Is Jesus only someone you sing about on Sunday or is your relationship with Him a reality all the time?

Where’s your Bible? Is it where you’ll see it and pick it up first thing in the morning or does it spend the week in the car with empty soda cups and gum wrappers and until you carry it in to church on Sunday?

And the last time you had a personality conflict, Continue reading

“How ‘Blame-Shifting’ Hurts You” March 21

 

Why You Shouldn't Be a Blame-Shifter - Are you a blame shifter? If so, how will it hurt you in the long run?Are you a blame-shifter? If so, how will it hurt you in the long run?

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 3 & 4
Psalm 36.7-12
Proverbs 12.7
Luke 1.1-20

 

How ‘Blame-Shifting’ Hurts You

 

Deuteronomy 3 & 4:

Finger Pointing

 

One thing we talk a lot about in counseling is Matthew 7.3-5 and how we need to remove the logs from our own eyes before we point the finger at anyone else.

Ezekiel 18.20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Yet, none of us is free from the tendency to want to blame someone else for our sins. Look at Moses statement in chapter 4:

“Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance” (4.21).

 

Where It Started

 

All this blaming-shifting actually started in the garden. When God asked Adam if he had eaten the forbidden fruit, he said, “The woman you gave me, she made me sin.” In other words, “It’s her fault and Yours, after all, You gave her to me!”

And what did we say, ladies? “It was the devil. He made me do it!” And it’s been going on ever since!

But sadly, we only hurt ourselves when we do.  Continue reading

“Wives, are you rotten?” March 20

 

Wives, are you rotten?

 

Rotten: It means something that is decaying or infected.

Ladies, our Proverbs passage tells us we can be like rotten fruit to our husbands! But we have a choice. We can, also, choose to be like crowns bringing them honor through our lives. Which one are you?

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 1 & 2
Psalm 36.1-6
Proverbs 12.4-6
Mark 16.1-20

 

Wives, are you rotten?

 

Proverbs 12.4-6:

Excellent or Rotten?

 

Verse 4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.”

Wives, do you do things which cause your husband shame? The way you talk? The way you dress? The way you criticize him in front of others? Does he consider you a “crown” to him or more like rotten fruit?

Are you an excellent wife? Proverbs 31 talks a lot about what it means to be an excellent wife. Among other things, she is trustworthy in all her behavior. She’s industrious, not lazy. She’s generous. She seeks to be organized and prepares for the future. She cares about her appearance, but she understand that inner beauty is the most important part of becoming the woman God wants her to be.

She’s faithful with her responsibilities and that frees her husband to be who God wants him to be. She is faithful to grow in her understanding of God’s Word and it’s reflected in her speech and character. She values her testimony. She wants others to see the light of Christ in her life.

Now a question for you husbands. Do you value what God values in a wife? What are you doing to help her become that “excellent wife”? Continue reading

Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 10 “Resolving Conflict” + LINKUP

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 10 "Resolving Conflict" - Conflicts and disagreements happen in the best of marriages, but what happens when we aren't resolving conflict biblically?Conflicts and disagreements happen in the best of marriages, but what happens when we aren’t resolving conflict biblically?

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 10 “Resolving Conflict”

 

In the first few weeks of this study we talked about some of the key components of marriage, then we covered the wife’s role and submission. Last week I shared a video by my husband Mike. His explanation of biblical decision making has helped many couples understand how to honor God in an area that can be difficult.

Mike uses a 4-way stop intersection to explain both the husband’s and wife’s roles and the responsibility each of them have to not allow differences to escalate into conflict.

But what happens when couples don’t seek to resolve problems biblically? And why is it so hard, even when we know what we should do? Look at James 4 for a minute:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask (Jas. 4.1-2 NASB).

Lust isn’t just about sexual desires. It can be the result of any strongly held desire. When we lust sexually, we’re so controlled by the desire for sexual pleasure that we’re willing to sin by going outside of God’s ordained will to obtain it.

When we lust after other things, we fight and quarrel, rather than resolving problems biblically. The things we want have become controlling desires and we, too, are willing to sin to get them.

Lustful desires might be having the house we want, spending money on a certain purchase, being in control, spending holidays or other times with our biological family, raising our kids a certain way, or a host of other things.

Even good things can become lusts if we’re willing to sin to get them or to hang on to them.

 

Unresolved Conflicts

 

Sometimes, when conflicts arise we go on the attack, verbally or physically.

Sometimes, we put up the “do not enter” sign. Our spouse learns that attempts to discuss the matter lead to anger, withdrawal, tears, or various forms of withdrawal. So conflict goes unresolved.

Sometimes, one spouse or the other is a controller. He or she may control through manipulation (tears, anger, withholding sex or affection) or fear and intimidation. It’s “one way, my way.”  Continue reading

“Have we ‘polluted our land,’ socially & spiritually?” March 19

 

"Have we polluted our land?" Have you ever wondered about the basis for our criminal justice system? It appears our founders relied a great deal on God's Word, in spite of what we're told to the contrary. And what about the condition of our nation today, have we "polluted the land" because of our failure to follow God's laws in these areas?

Have you ever wondered about the basis for our criminal justice system? It appears our founders relied a great deal on God’s Word, in spite of what we’re told to the contrary. And what about the condition of our nation today, have we “polluted the land” because of our failure to follow God’s laws in these areas?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 35 & 36
Psalm 35.17-28
Proverbs 12.3
Mark 15.25-47

 

Have we ‘polluted our land,’ socially & spiritually?

 

Numbers 35 & 36:

Crime & Punishment

 

Chapter 35.9-34 lays down laws about murder, manslaughter and other civil matters? You can see the basis for our criminal justice system in these passages and others in the Bible.

The cities of refuge were a kind of protective custody (vss. 11-15) and the manslaughter law recognized that even though the person may not have intended to do harm, there needed to be consequences for being irresponsible (vss. 22-28).

Capitol punishment (vss. 16-21, 30-31) was an important part of the law and God said they were not to “pollute the land” (vss. 33-34) by not dealing with these serious crimes.

Not only can you see the basis of our criminal justice system, but if you look at the condition of our nation and the lack of respect for authority, you have to wonder if we have “polluted our land” by not dealing with serious crimes and not carrying out justice in a reasonable amount of time. Instead, we have excused, justified and minimized sin.

Notice, though, that the avenger was not free to become a vigilante. He was to respect the legal process. The accused was protected while awaiting judgment—we call it “innocent until proven guilty” (vss. 15, 24) and, if not a capital crime, the person was free to go back to his inheritance once his debt to society was paid, here determined by the death of the high priest (v. 28).

The Apostle Paul reinforced the fact in the New Testament that we are not to take the law into our own hands. Instead we should show respect for those in authority over us, including policemen, judges and others. Continue reading

“Reading through the Bible … Why start now?” March 18

 

Reading through the Bible ... Why start now? - Have you thought about reading through the Bible, but just never have? Maybe you thought, "I'll start at the beginning of 2017 and here we are in March." So why start now? Why today? Well ... why not? Twice in the book of Hebrews God said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”Have you thought about reading through the Bible, but just never have? Maybe you thought, “I’ll start at the beginning of 2017 and here we are in March.”

So why start now? Why today? Well … why not?

Twice in the book of Hebrews God said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

You can follow along here or just find a reading plan that fits your life. But don’t think “a reading plan that fits your life” means it won’t take effort and some time.

If you follow along with me here at Soul Survival, I’ll add some practical commentary to help you get more out of your reading. Simply sign up here.

You can either jump in where we are or if you can’t bear not to start at the beginning, you can go back to January 1 and start there. But don’t overburden yourself by thinking you can “catch up.” It’s not a race. Our goal is to know God better and to understand His plan for our lives.

And for those of you who have been reading along with me for a while or perhaps dropping in occasionally, I know it can be challenging some mornings sticking to the commitment to read your the Bible. But as long as you say “maybe next year,” it just doesn’t happen, not until you say “no, this is the year I’m doing it!”

Even if it gets done with some fits and starts, even if you miss a few days or more than a few, I encourage you to stick with it. The reward is a deeper relationship with Jesus and it’s sweeter than you can imagine!

On to the Word …

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 33 & 34
Psalm 35.9-16
Proverbs 12.2
Mark 15.1-24

 

“Reading through the Bible …  Why start now?

 

Numbers 33 & 34:

Gods without Heads or Hands

 

false god

In chapter 33 Moses recounts the journeys of the Nation of Israel beginning with their departure from Egypt. Talking about the judgment God had brought on the Egyptians, 33.4 says, “… Also on their gods the LORD had executed judgments.” God not only punished the Egyptians for their treatment of His people, but destroyed and discredited, the false gods they relied on.

We see another time when God brought
judgment on a symbol of pagan worship in 1 Samuel 5.1-5. The Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant from the Israelites. They took it and put it in the temple of their pagan god Dagon and set it by the idol. In the morning the statue of Dagon had fallen on its face before the ark. Verse 3:

“So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it.”

What a picture of the futility of “worshiping” anything other than the true God. Anything else is without reason (the head) or ability (the hands) to bring any real help. And yet, just like the pagans in Bible times, we continue to look to our false gods by relying on ourselves, our money, our jobs, our relationships, and the list goes on, to bring us peace, joy and satisfaction and to meet our needs. God never intended for those things to replace Him.

If that’s you, ask for His forgiveness and turn to Him in a fresh way today.

 

Psalm 35.9-16:

He Delivers Those Who Understand Their Poverty

 

Dollarphotoclub prayer woman

Verse 10, “All my bones shall say, ‘LORD, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?'”

When Paul cried out to have his “thorn in the flesh” removed, God said:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul’s response was:

“Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Sometimes we are in the most danger when we think we are strong. But when we know we are poor (weak), we are more likely to rely on God. 1 Corinthians 10.12 says:  Continue reading

“Could you be acting ‘dumb as an ox’?” March 17

 

Are you acting "dumb as an ox"? - God says there is a time when we can truly be "dumb as an ox," but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?God says there is a time when we can truly be “dumb as an ox,” but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 31 & 32
Psalm 35.1-8
Proverbs 12.1
Mark 14.55-72

 

“Could you be acting ‘dumb as an ox’?”

 

Proverbs 12.1:

Acting Stupid

 

“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

The word translated “stupid” comes from a word meaning “to graze.” One who hates to be corrected is unteachable like an ignorant animal, like the old saying goes, “dumb as an ox.” Not a very flattering picture.

Teaching and correction are part of God’s means of grace to help us grow and mature as believers. A refusal to accept correction reveals an attitude of pride.

However, those who “love instruction” and submit themselves to correction are co-operating with God’s means of grace. They are able to learn from the wisdom of others instead of suffering the consequences of foolishness and poor choices.

But criticism, especially when it seems unjustified, can be so difficult to receive.

Why, when we’re criticized, do we so quickly become defensive? Because we believe something much bigger is at stake, our reputation. We’re often so convinced of the need to prove ourselves right in the eyes of others that we’re willing to damage relationships to do so (Jas. 4.1-4).

Alfred Poirier in his little booklet Words that Cut from Peacemaker Ministries, says:

In short, our idolatrous desire to justify ourselves fuels our inability to take criticism, which, in turn, is the cause for much conflict. It is the reason that many marriages and family members split, factions form, and relationships grow cold. And it is the reason we so desperately need the direction provided in Scripture to begin forming a redemptive, godward view of criticism.

Proverbs repeatedly shows us the importance of being able to receive rebuke, correction and criticism.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Prov. 9.9).

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise (Prov. 12.15).

By pride comes nothing but strife,
But with the well-advised is wisdom (Prov. 13.10).

He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (Prov. 15.32).

Rebuke is more effective for a wise man
Than a hundred blows on a fool (Prov. 17.10).

And in Psalm 141.5 David said:

Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Is that how you respond to criticism? I know I don’t. I fight the tendency to respond like a stupid ox! And lately, God has given me some excellent opportunities to see just how much of that tendency I still have!

So how can I (and possible some of you) become more like David?

The answer is in understanding just what God said about us at the cross.

At the cross God criticized, in fact, judged us as sinners whose only just punishment was death (Rom. 3.10-18, 23, 6.23). Alfred Poirier says:

In light of these massive charges against us, any accusations launched at us are mere understatements about who we are and what we’ve done!

To claim to be a Christian is to claim to be a person who has understood criticism. The Christian is a person who has stood under the greatest criticism–God’s criticism–and agreed with it! As people who have been “crucified with Christ,” we acknowledge, agree, and approve of God’s judgments against us. We confess, “I am a Sinner! I am a Lawbreaker! I deserve death!” Do you see how radical a confession that is?

But the good news is that God has not only judged us, He has justified us. When we realize that it’s not about our righteousness. We don’t have to boast or defend our goodness or performance. Now we boast in Christ’s righteousness.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1.30-31).

And instead of becoming defensive when criticized, the wise realize there is value in it. Remember what David said, “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.” 

If we remember we’re sinners, we can accept the fact that we have blind spots and, even when criticism is unjust, we can look for what God might be teaching us or exposing in our hearts. All criticism, ultimately, comes from the hand of our Sovereign God.

So, how do we get there?  Continue reading