“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?

 

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Crime & Punishment

 

Chapter 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. ) 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. ).

Capitol punishment (vss. ) was an important part of the law and God said they were not to “pollute the land” (vss. ) 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. ) 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. ).

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?

 

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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, 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 . 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.

 

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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’?”

 

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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

“Vows, Authority & Soul Winning” March 16

 

What does God say about our vows?

How does the ancient “Law of Vows” apply to us today? And what does it have to do with a right view of authority?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 29 & 30
Psalm 34.15-22
Proverbs 11.30-31
Mark 14.27-54

 

Vows, Authority & Soul Winning

 

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The “Law of Vows” & a Right View of Authority

 

Chapter 30 covers the “Law of Vows.” God takes truth and honoring our word seriously. Jesus said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” (Matt. 5.37a”]).

God not only takes truth seriously, but He also takes authority seriously. Part of the “Law of Vows” addressed that fact. It said if a woman still lived in her father’s house or if she was married, her father or husband could overrule what she vowed.

Authority is still very important to God whether in our marriages, in the workplace, or in other areas of life.

We need to teach our children the importance of respect for authority, too. That means teaching them to respect their teachers, the police and other civil authorities, and even the other parent where divorce has taken place.

We should teach them both by instruction and by example. That means we must show respect to our spouses (& ex-spouses), their teachers and school officials, civil authorities, and our bosses.

Authority, however, stops when the other person asks us to sin. Sin would include Continue reading

“What are you willing to pour out for Christ?” March 15

 

What are you willing to pour out for the cause of Christ?

Mark 14 records the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. She poured out it’s valuable contents to honor Christ. What are you and I willing to pour out for the cause of Christ?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 27 & 28
Psalm 34.8-14
Proverbs 11.29
Mark 14.1-26

 

What are you willing to pour out for Christ?

 

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Your Alabaster Jar

 

Verses 3-9 relate the story of the woman with the alabaster jar:

3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He [Jesus] sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

John 12.3 tells us this was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. This costly oil was, probably, worth nearly a year’s salary. She poured it out showing her love and devotion for her Lord.

Others were given the opportunity to pour out for Christ. One that comes to mind is the rich young ruler, but he walked away when Jesus asked him to sell all that he had and give to the poor (Mk. 10.17-21).

What about me? What about you? What are we willing to give back to God? Are we willing to use our gifts and talents to further the kingdom of God? Do we give faithfully of our finances? What about our time? Do we give God an hour or two a week, but no more?  Continue reading

“How would you fill in the blank?” March 14

 

How would you fill in the blank? - Fill in the blanks: "I won't be happy until ____________." "I must have ___________." What do your answers have to do with your worship?Fill in the blanks: “I won’t be happy until ____________.” “I must have ___________.” What do your answers have to do with your worship?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 25 & 26
Psalm 34.1-7
Proverbs 11.28
Mark 13.21-37

 

How would you fill in the blank?

 

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Modern Day Idolaters

 

As we see God’s swift and strong judgment on sin in the Old Testament, we need to remember a couple of things. First, He was protecting the people and the bloodline through which He was going to bring forth the Messiah.

But second, though God is patient and merciful with us in our sin and idolatry, it doesn’t mean He’s changed His mind about sin! It’s only the blood of Christ that keeps us from a similar fate and it was the mercy and love of God that made provision for our salvation. And how great a salvation it is!

We tend to write off the idea that we, too, are idolaters. We may or may not bow down to carved images, but we are frequently guilty of having other things on the throne of our hearts besides God Himself. Things like: I must have a spouse to be happy; I must have a godly husband; I must have a wife who respects me, I must have obedient children; or some other, “I must ..” Even good things can become idols if they are the focal point of our lives in the place of God.

Ask yourself, “Is there something or someone I think I cannot be happy without?”

Our idols can become so important that they blind us (Ezek. 14.1-8). In our blindness we can begin to justify sin or even refuse to see that it exists. We murmur and complain like the children of Israel in the wilderness. We compromise our moral standards, resort to sinful anger, or give in to fear.

When we do, it is sin—pure and simple. No amount of sugar coating will change it, but the answer is just as simple Continue reading

“If you’re looking for trouble … it will find you!” March 13

 

If you're looking for trouble ... it will find you!

“He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, but trouble will come to him who seeks evil.” In other words, if you’re looking for trouble, it will find you!

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 23 & 24
Psalm 33.18-22
Proverbs 11.27
Mark 13.1-20

 

If you’re looking for trouble … it will find you!

 

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Trouble Will Find You

 

“He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, but trouble will come to him who seeks evil.”

The New Living Translation says it this way, “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” In other words, if you’re looking for trouble, watch out! It will find you!

We’ve probably all known people who just seem to go looking for trouble. It’s easy to get focused on them and be a little smug about the fact that we’re better than that. But do we seek evil in more subtle ways without realizing it?

Have you ever maliciously thought, “what goes around comes around”? Ever taken some secret delight in seeing someone fail? It may seem relatively harmless, but is it? Is it pleasing to God? Is it seeking good or searching for evil?

And what about playing with evil in your mind? Continue reading

Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 9 “Decision Making & 4-Way Stops” + LINKUP

 

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Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? “Decision Making & 4-Way Stops”

 

In the first few weeks of this study we talked about some of the key components of marriage, then the wife’s role, and last week we looked a little deeper at submission, what it is and what it isn’t.

If you missed the last two and you’re struggling with the idea of submission or not even sure if it’s biblical or fair, I encourage you to go back and read them.

Today I want to look at a practical explanation of what submission should look like and how it ties in with the husband’s role as leader (Eph. 5.25).

My husband does a great job of explaining what I want to share, so I’m going to let him do just that. This little video is an illustration he uses in the counseling room and when he teaches on the subject.

 

 

Some of you might be thinking, I would submit if my husband preferred me like that! We need to remember that our job is to trust God and allow Him to work in our husbands.

But we also need to understand that, in the same way, that a husband’s love for his wife is purifying and causes her to want to love him back, a wife’s respect and willingness to honor him and follow his leadership, softens his heart both toward her and toward God (1 Pet. 3.1-4).  Continue reading

“Giving & the Heart of the Giver” March 12

 

Giving & the Heart of the Giver - Do you ever feel like you have so little to give to God? So little in the way of talent or time or resources? What kind of giving does God desire and what does the heart of the giver have to do with it?Do you ever feel like you have so little to give to God? So little in the way of talent or time or resources? What kind of giving does God desire and what does the heart of the giver have to do with it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 21 & 22
Psalm 33.10-17
Proverbs 11.25-26
Mark 12.28-44

 

Giving & the Heart of the Giver

 

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Giving & Our Heart Attitudes

 

Jesus and His disciples are observing those giving in the temple:

“Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, …So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood'” (vv. 42-44).

The New Living Translation says she gave “all that she had to live on.” Bible dictionaries say these coins were worth less than a penny a piece. This poor widow humbly and quietly gave all that she had.

In Matthew 6.2 Jesus warned against following the example of some who, while the gifts may have been large, made a show of their giving:

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full (NASB).

They wanted to be seen and heard by men, but this poor widow’s giving was seen and heard in heaven. God is not looking at the size of the gift, but at the heart of the giver!

How is your heart when you give? Do you give begrudgingly? Cheerfully? Sacrificially? This is not about earning God’s love. He already loves each of us enough to die for us. It’s not about looking good to others like religious people of Jesus’ time.

Even though God works through the giving of His people, He doesn’t need our money (Ps. 24.1, 50.10). He wants our hearts!

 

TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:

 

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As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent in the Wilderness

 

Christ on the crossIn chapter 21 God had blessed the Nation of Israel with military success. He continued to feed them supernaturally, protect them and rule over them. Yet they continued to grumble, complain and turn against Moses. As a result God sent poisonous snakes into the camp. These snakes had a bite that caused a fiery inflammation.

But even then God made a provision for them to be saved from the consequences of their sin. He instructed Moses to put an image of the snake, the result of their sin, on a pole and anyone who looked at it, was saved from death.

John 3.14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As a result of our sin, Jesus allowed Himself to be hung or lifted up on a cross so that whoever looks to Him will also be saved, not from physical death, but from eternal spiritual death!

According to A.W. Tozer in his book The Pursuit of God, looking and believing are synonymous. While Israel looked with their physical eyes, we look on or believe in with the heart.

 

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Blessed by God, and Yet …

 

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Like the nation of Israel, our nation has been blessed by God in so many ways: militarily, financially, with an abundance of food, protection, unheard of freedoms, and yet, we’ve turned to gods of our own making. The only answer is turning back to the One true God. That begins with us. We must surrender fully to Him in our own hearts, minds and lives, and pray for a great revival in our nation.

Whether or not our nation as a whole will turn back to God, we don’t know, but just as God protected individuals in the nation of Israel from what was going on around them, Continue reading

“Modesty & Discretion: Does God care how we dress & speak?” March 11

 

Modesty & Discretion: Does God care how we dress & speak? - What does God value in a woman? Does He care about modesty and discretion? About how we dress or talk? Does the Bible have anything to say about these things? Check out our proverbs reading to learn more.What does God value in a woman? Does He care about modesty and discretion? About how we dress or talk? Does the Bible have anything to say about these things? Check out our proverbs reading to learn more.

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 19 & 20
Psalm 33.1-9
Proverbs 11.22-24
Mark 12.1-27

 

Modesty & Discretion: Does God care how we dress & speak?

 

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To the Ladies:

 

What does our clothing and behavior say about us? Is clothing merely a fashion statement? Is it our right to dress any way we choose? Is off color language simply part of life in the business world? Does the Bible have anything to say about these things and other ways that we relate to those around us?

It turns out God has a great deal to say about these things. Verse 22 in today’s reading for starters.

“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.”

A beautiful woman without discretion—a woman without modesty, wisdom and grace—is compared to a pig!

A pig is an animal who roots around in garbage, an animal that you can clean up, but who will go right back to the pig sty! The beauty of a woman without discretion is like a jewel put in the nose of an animal that pokes around in the slop!

Ladies, why do we stand around and listen to dirty jokes, or laugh at them, or … tell them? Why do we reveal parts of our bodies that should be reserved for our husbands or future husbands—by wearing things that are too low, too short or too tight? And why do we allow our daughters to dress that way?

Why do we allow gossip and criticism and unwholesome things to come out of our mouths? Why do we watch TV shows and movies and read books that fill our minds with things contrary to the Word and make us look like the rest of the world?

The Bible doesn’t give us rules and regulations about the length of our skirts or the style of our clothes and I don’t want to either. And we need to be extremely careful about becoming self-righteous in this area, especially when it comes to visitors to our churches or with new believers. But as we grow in Christ we should be more sensitive to these issues and more aware of the heart attitudes behind them.

When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said in short, love God and love others (Matt. 22.37-40). Our behavior has an effect on others: on our brothers in Christ, on our sisters in Christ who are their wives, on those who look to us as an example, and to the world who is watching to see if there is really anything different about us.

More than once, I’ve heard women say, “I like to dress this way. If men look at me, that’s their problem.” Certainly, men are responsible for what they do with their eyes, but we are also responsible if we’re a stumbling block.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. (1 Thess. 4.3-7).

One definition of defraud is to offer something for sale that you don’t intend to provide.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Eph. 5.3-4)

Instead, may the Lord help us to be the women Peter talked about:

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 3.3-4).

 

A Note to the Men:

 

Men, I pray that you will become the kind of men who value what God values in a woman, rather than the world. Too many men value the wrong things. Sadly, I’ve even seen men with wives who were demanding they become women!

 

TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:

 

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Whining, Murmuring, & Complaining

 

Almost 40 years had passed since the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. Most of the adults had died just as God said they would. They did not enter the Promised Land because they listened to the evil report of the ten spies instead of trusting God. Now there was a new generation murmuring against God. They seem to have learned more from their parents’ example than from their parents’ fate!

What are your children learning from you? Do you tell them not to “whine and complain” while you “whine and complain” about your spouse, your boss, your government (this one hits pretty close to home for me), your mother-in-law or whatever?

This is one way the sins of the fathers and mothers are visited on the children Continue reading