“Fear, Freedom, Bondage & Co-Dependency” September 30

 

Fear, Freedom, Bondage & Co-Dependency - We call it a lot of different names: peer pressure, people pleasing, co-dependency. Proverbs tells us it is a trap into which we can easily fall. What is it and how can we be free from it's grip? Just as our sin nature blinds us to the danger of people-pleasing and co-dependency, we can be blinded about true freedom. Could something that looks like freedom actually bring you into bondage?

We call it by a lot of different names: peer pressure, people pleasing, co-dependency. Proverbs tells us it is a trap into which we can easily fall. What is it and how can we be free from its grip?

Just as our sin nature blinds us to the danger of people-pleasing and co-dependency, we can be blinded about true freedom. Could something that looks like freedom actually bring you into bondage?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 51 & 52
Psalm 112.5-10
Proverbs 26.16
Ephesians 2.1-22

 

Fear, Freedom, Bondage & Co-Dependency

 

Isaiah 51 & 52:

Hope in Him

 

Verse 51.4 starts out:

“Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation.

We should be listening to everything God says in His Word, so I had to wonder why God would make it a point at the beginning of this passage to say, “Listen to me …” Perhaps, this is a little like us when we say to our children, “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” In other words, what I’m about to say is important. Give me your undivided attention.

Then He began to talk to His people about the hope they had in their coming Messiah. But their hope wasn’t just for the future. They were to put their hope in Him then. Verse 6:

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished.

Just as we are saved by looking back in faith on what Christ did for us on the cross, their redemption was based on faith in the One True God and the coming of their Messiah.

Instead of focusing on the strength of other nations, they were to focus on Him.

Chapter 51.12-13:

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die,
And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?
13 And you forget the LORD your Maker,
Who stretched out the heavens
And laid the foundations of the earth;

Matthew 10 says it this way:

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

 

Fear, Freedom, Bondage & Co-Dependency - We call it a lot of different names: peer pressure, people pleasing, co-dependency. Proverbs tells us it is a trap into which we can easily fall. What is it and how can we be free from it's grip? Just as our sin nature blinds us to the danger of people-pleasing and co-dependency, we can be blinded about true freedom. Could something that looks like freedom actually bring you into bondage?


How much time do we waste “fearing man”? It’s a trap into which we easily fall. We may not fear what they might do to us physically. We fear what they think of us, what they might say about us, or how they might sin against us.

“If they find out I’m a Christian, they’ll think I’m a ‘goody-two-shoes’.”
“If I don’t have sex with my boyfriend, he might leave me.”
“If I give in to my wife, what will I tell the guys?”
“If I submit to my husband, he’ll walk all over me.”
“What would they think if they knew about my past?”
“If I don’t lie for my husband, he might lose his job.”

It’s been called people-pleasing, co-dependency, peer pressure, low self-esteem, keeping up with the Jones or being an approval junkie. The Bible calls it the fear of man.  Continue reading

“Biblical Prosperity & ‘The Prosperity Doctrine'” September 29

 

Biblical Prosperity & "The Prosperity Doctrine" - What is true biblical prosperity and how does it differ from the popular "prosperity doctrine" many adhere to today? How do we put ourselves in a position to prosper in God's kingdom? And what is the danger of believing a doctrine that is not biblically sound?What is true biblical prosperity and how does it differ from the popular “prosperity doctrine” many adhere to today? How do we put ourselves in a position to prosper in God’s kingdom? And what is the danger of believing a doctrine that is not biblically sound?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 49 & 50
Psalm 112.1-4
Proverbs 26.13-15
Ephesians 1.1-23

 

Biblical Prosperity & “The Prosperity Doctrine”

 

Psalm 112.1-4:

Blessed is the Man …

 

Verse 1, “… Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.”

Psalm 1 expands this thought:

1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.

3 He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

Unfortunately, the message preached in many pulpits is, “just come to Jesus and He will cause everything you do to prosper.” There is an element of truth in that idea, but without qualifying it with the truths found in these verses and understanding what prospering means from God’s perspective, people end up coming to Him like a spiritual vending machine.

It’s the man or woman who fears the Lord, who doesn’t listen to ungodly advice, doesn’t hang around friends and co-workers who are up to no good, especially those who scorn the truths and reality of God, who will prosper. It’s those who delight in the things of God, meditate on those truths, and obey them, who will prosper.

Sadly, many buy into a superficial doctrine of prosperity and happiness, a message that sounds good to our selfish, sinful nature, but requires little of us in the way of change or growth. A large percentage of them will walk away from God at some point when what they believe doesn’t deliver, sometimes mad at God when they do.  Continue reading

“Wheat, Tares & Hypocrites” September 28

 

Wheat, Tares & Hypocrites

I can’t imagine anything worse than believing you are alright with God and when you stand before Him, hear those words, “I never knew you.” Yet, in the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares,” Jesus acknowledged that there are many sitting in churches who don’t belong to Him. How can we know?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 47 & 48
Psalm 111.7-10
Proverbs 26.11-12
Galatians 6.1-18

 

Wheat, Tares & Hypocrites

 

Isaiah 47 & 48:

Trusting in Self, False Gods or Sorceries

 

In chapter 47, the Babylonians thought they were strong and secure and untouchable. They trusted in themselves, their false gods, and their sorceries. They had set themselves against God and would soon be judged.

Like the Babylonians many today are busy enjoying their ease and success and power. Many of them have set themselves against God. They belittle His people as weak and God as merely a crutch. They want to make their own rules. Their first commandment is “Thou shalt not be intolerant of anything I want to do!” Even when they claim to believe in Him, they pervert the Word of God, twisting it to make it say the opposite of what it does.

They wrongly interpret God’s patience and tolerance.

“They have lied about the LORD and said, ‘He won’t bother us! No disasters will come upon us. There will be no war or famine’” (Jer. 5.12 NLT).

Instead of seeing God’s patience and mercy as an opportunity to repent, they decide there will never be a day of accounting.

 

Wheat, Tares, and Hypocrites

 

Then in chapter 48, God speaks to those who call themselves His people. Though He continues to assure them that He will not utterly destroy them because of His mercy and grace, he promises to judge those who hypocritically claim to believe one thing while practicing another.

In the New Testament Jesus told “the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” He acknowledged there are many tares, unbelievers, growing alongside the wheat, believers. But he said:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13.30).

Many, even in our churches, are in danger of hearing the shocking truth when they stand before Him:

“‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7.23).

 

I never knew you! - I can’t imagine anything worse than believing you are alright with God and when you stand before Him, hear these words, “I never knew you.” Could it happen to you?


Test Yourselves

 

Paul said in our New Testament reading, “But let each one examine his own work …” (Gal. 6.4). And in his instructions for taking the Lord’s Supper:  Continue reading

“What Do You See in the Mirror?” September 27

 

What Do You See in the Mirror? - James compared God's Word to a mirror. As we read it and meditate on the character of Christ, we can see where we're not like Him. Today's reading contains two lists: the fruit of the Spirit and the deeds of the flesh. We may think we know which one describes us, but let's look again. Contemplating the characteristics of each can help us see where we need to grow and change. James compared God’s Word to a mirror. As we read it and meditate on the character of Christ, we can see where we’re not like Him. Today’s reading has two lists: the fruit of the Spirit and the deeds of the flesh. We may think we know which one describes us, but let’s look again. Contemplating the characteristics of each can help us see where we need to grow and change.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 45 & 46
Psalm 111.1-6
Proverbs 26.10
Galatians 5.1-26

 

What Do You See in the Mirror?

 

Galatians 5.1-26:

Two Lists: The Fruit of the Spirit & the Deeds of the Flesh

 

God’s Word is our plumb line. It’s to be our guide for daily living.

James compared it to a mirror (Jas. 1.22-25):

21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (Jas. 1.22-25).

As we look into that mirror, we see where we’re not like Christ and where we need to grow and change. In today’s reading in Galatians we find two lists, contrasting godly living with sinful. Verses 19-21:

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Verses 22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

We need to ask, which list characterizes our lives?

Is it verses 22-23, the fruit of the Spirit?

Or verses 19-21: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred … we might think we’re doing pretty good … murders, drunkenness … still OK … but wait a minute … contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions …

 

What Do You See in the Mirror? - James compared God's Word to a mirror. As we read it and meditate on the character of Christ, we can see where we're not like Him. Today's reading contains two lists: the fruit of the Spirit and the deeds of the flesh. We may think we know which one describes us, but let's look again. Contemplating the characteristics of each can help us see where we need to grow and change. 

 

Notice God put those things smack dab in the middle of that list! And verse 21 says, “… those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Of course, we will at times fall short in some of these areas, but if these things characterize our lives, if we practice them as a lifestyle, especially if we can do so without conviction or a desire to change, it may be an indication that we need to evaluate our relationship with God.

 

What Do You See in the Mirror? - James compared God's Word to a mirror. As we read it and meditate on the character of Christ, we can see where we're not like Him. Today's reading contains two lists: the fruit of the Spirit and the deeds of the flesh. We may think we know which one describes us, but let's look again. Contemplating the characteristics of each can help us see where we need to grow and change. 


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 45 & 46:

He Will Bring It to Pass

 

Over and over in these two chapters God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” One of the ways He has confirmed that fact is through the fulfillment of prophecy.  Continue reading

“The Danger of Parental Legalism” September 26

 

Danger of Parental Legalism - Could you be guilty of parental legalism? Parental legalists often focus on behavior as opposed to the heart. If we make Christianity all about “the law,” we may fail to help our children understand their need for genuine heart change and a personal relationship with Christ.Could you be guilty of parental legalism? Parental legalists often focus on behavior as opposed to the heart. If we make Christianity all about “the law,” we may fail to help our children understand their need for genuine heart change and a personal relationship with Christ.

Also read about:

  • How and how not to communicate with a person who is acting like a fool.
  • And the foolishness of idolatry, even the kind you could be practicing.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 43 & 44
Psalm 110.1-7
Proverbs 26.5-9
Galatians 4.1-31

 

The Danger of Parental Legalism

 

Galatians 4.1-31:

The Importance of Getting to the Heart

 

I’ve been talking about legalism for several days now. Remember the Judaizers or legalists had come in trying to impose their brand of religion on the Galatians. As human beings we love having a set of rules to follow instead of allowing God to make a change in our hearts or the hearts of others.

Lou Priolo in his book The Heart of Anger talks about how we do this with our children. We make our rules (be in bed at 8.30; you can’t watch that TV show; no dating until you are 16; don’t talk with food in your mouth) on the same par with God’s commands (love God with all your heart; love your neighbor as yourself; do not lie; do not steal, etc.).

It’s not that children shouldn’t obey the rules their parents lay down for them (one of God’s commands is “children obey your parents in the Lord …” Eph. 6.1-3), but we must help our children understand that those are temporary rules for the household and not God’s law. Otherwise we run the risk of either making little Pharisees of our children or causing them to view Christianity as a legalistic religion instead of a relationship with Christ. Without that personal relationship with God, many of our kids will turn away from the things of God once they’re out of our homes.

Instead we need to lovingly teach our children to obey us as God’s temporary authority in their lives, while teaching them the truths and freedoms and principles of a genuine relationship with God and helping them see their need for the Savior. He is the only One who can ultimately change their hearts.

 

Danger of Parental Legalism - Could you be guilty of parental legalism? Parental legalists often focus on behavior as opposed to the heart. If we make Christianity all about “the law,” we may fail to help our children understand their need for genuine heart change and a personal relationship with Christ.


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 43 & 44:

Idolatry … It’s Not Just Carved Images!

 

In chapter 44.10-17 Isaiah points out the foolishness of idolatry, including ours: Continue reading

“Kept by Grace” September 25

 

Kept by Grace - No amount of good works can make us right with God. And just as we are saved by grace through faith, we are kept by grace.No amount of good works can make us right with God. And just as we are saved by grace through faith, we are kept by grace.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 41 & 42
Psalm 109.26-31
Proverbs 26.3-4
Galatians 3.1-29

 

Kept by Grace

 

Galatians 3.1-29:

Saved by Grace and Kept by Grace

 

Verse 21, “… if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”

I touched on this a couple of days ago when I talked about how we are all legalists at heart. We are so prone to believe that if we are somehow just good enough, we can be right with God. So often when you ask people why they think they will go to heaven, they will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”

But Romans tells us, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3.10). We cannot be right with God on our own. As Jesus told us in John 3, we must be born again by the Spirit of God. We must accept Christ’s sacrifice and payment for our sin.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2.8-9).

We are saved by grace through faith in the Son and what He did for us. Ephesians 2.10 tells us that a changed life will produce good works, but they cannot make us righteous. Instead, good works flow from our righteousness in Him.

Just as we are saved by grace, we are kept by the same grace.

Jesus said in John 10:

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

In Romans 8, Paul said:

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And in Ephesians 1:

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

While it is not a license to sin (Rom. 6.1-2), our eternal security is sure because it’s not based on our ability to hang on to it. It’s based on His promises, His power, and His grace.

 

Kept by Grace -


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 41 & 42:

His Care for the Faithful

 

Chapter 41 was written to warn those in Israel, who persisted in idolatry, but also to encourage and comfort those who remained faithful to the One True God.

Chapter 42 contains many prophesies about the Messiah. Jesus quoted from this chapter in Matthew 12 speaking about Himself (Matt. 12.17-21).  Continue reading

“The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth” + LINKUP

 

I’ve noticed that most people either find prayer a natural part of their Christian life or thoroughly enjoy studying the Bible. But rarely, have I met someone who says both come easily and naturally to them. Yet, it’s the two of them working together that are God’s essential means of Christian growth.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival

 

The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth

 

Bible study comes pretty easy for me. I love reading my Bible. That doesn’t mean I do it perfectly or haven’t had to discipline myself to make it a part of my daily life, but once I acquired that habit, my hunger for God’s Word grew. And now I can’t see my life without reading and studying God’s Word.

I, also, know that prayer is important. I teach others that prayer is a necessary part of our Christian life. And I pray. Or maybe I should say, I work at praying.

I have a prayer list and verses of Scripture I like to pray for my husband, myself, and those I love. I pray as part of my journaling (the most effective way for me). I’m not afraid to pray in restaurants and other public places. I pray alone. I pray with others.

want prayer to be like breathing for me. But the truth is, it’s more like work.

What comes easier for you? Is it prayer? Or is it reading and studying your Bible?

According to the great preacher D.L. Moody in his book Prevailing Prayer:

These two means of grace must be used in their right proportion. If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

When it comes to prayer, I’ve read many books and heard more than a few sermons. I always go away more motivated and, often, excited about something new I want to incorporate into my prayer life. Other times the message is a reminder of something I know to be true. But, honestly, I find I still have to discipline myself to pray.

 

Why Pray?

 

Jesus said that prayer can move mountains (Mk. 11.23) and James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5.16b). James went on to say:

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Hannah prayed and God opened her womb (1 Sam. 1).

Elisha prayed and a boy was raised from the dead (2 Kings 4.32-37).

Sampson prayed and God answered, even after he failed miserably:

28 Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. 30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life (Judges 16.28-30).

Daniel prayed and God sent the Angel Gabriel. Cornelius prayed and God sent Peter to his home. Peter’s friends prayed and he was released from prison. Paul and Silas prayed and a jailer and his family were saved. Over and over again in the Bible we see God move in response to prayer.

Jesus prayed before He chose His twelve apostles, when faced with the demands of ministry, when a friend died, on the night He was betrayed, and just before He died for the sins of the world.

We’re taught to pray (Matt. 6.9-13), encouraged to pray (Lk. 18.1), and commanded to pray (1 Thess 5.17). Prayer is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. So, why is prayer so important?

Simply put, prayer is the best way for us to communicate with God. Reading His Word is listening to Him. Prayer is our response. Any relationship requires the give and take of both.

Prayer offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our need for God, to confess our sins and to thank Him for His many blessings. It helps us stay dependent on Him, instead of relying on ourselves.

God doesn’t need us to pray; He wants us to pray. He can perform His will with or without us, but He has given us the privilege of being part of what He’s doing in the earth.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder why I have so much trouble disciplining myself to pray, at times.

And what about Bible study?  Continue reading

“At Least It Will Be Good for Me!” September 24

 

At Least It Will Be Good for Me! - It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what's right. Yet we have a responsibility to pray for those God has placed in authority.It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what’s right. Yet we have a responsibility to pray for those God has placed in authority.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 39 & 40
Psalm 109.21-25
Proverbs 26.2
Galatians 2.1-21

 

At Least It Will Be Good for Me!

 

Isaiah 39 & 40:

Politics as Usual

 

Reading about Hezekiah made me think of some of our politicians.

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts. 6 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 7 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”

8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”

The Prophet had just told him, Hezekiah, your choices and the accumulated rebellion of your generation are going to lead to the destruction of your nation as you know it. Your children and grandchildren are going to be taken into slavery, some will even be castrated. And, instead of calling his nation to repentance, his response was, “At least it will be good for me!”

It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly, too. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what’s right. Without a revival in our nation, I don’t see that changing.

But that doesn’t excuse us from praying for those God has placed in authority:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.1-4).

If there is to be a reprieve in God’s judgment on our nation, it’s only going to happen because the hearts of our leaders change. Only then will they make right, though painful, economic decisions. Only then will they call for racial unity. Only then will they make good moral choices, even at great personal cost.

Let’s pray for revival in our nation’s capitol and her people.

 

He who Weighs the Mountains

 

Chapter 40 makes we wonder afresh if we really understand the awesomeness of God:

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?

Though the Bible is not primarily a book about science, where it does speak of science or any other subject, it is truth! Verse 22, for example, says, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth …” He told us the earth was round long before science figured it out!

Although many theories laid out by sinful, unredeemed men contradict the Bible (remember it’s the theory of evolution), true science does not!

Chapter 40 goes on:

26 Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.

Just look up! The heavens declare His majesty. The order and magnificence of the universe speaks of a Creator. The intricacies of the human body alone confirm to anyone who wants to know the truth that nothing happened by mere chance.

God is upholding everything! He “brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name.” The host—all the stars and planets and all the universes that exist, do so because He created them. He already knows just how many there are even as we continue to discover new ones. He has already named each one of them. Just as He declared what a set of pagan parents would name their son (King Cyrus) a hundred and fifty years before, so He pre-ordained the name of each star and planet and solar system.

And if that’s not enough, it’s His power which holds each one in its place, “by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.”

What an amazing thing that the Creator of everything in the heavens above and the earth beneath invites us to have a relationship with Him!

 

At Least It Will Be Good for Me! - It seems many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle are more concerned about how their current decisions and the laws they pass affect them directly. Their primary goal appears to be getting re-elected rather than doing what's right. Yet we have a responsibility to pray for those God has placed in authority.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 109.21-25:

For His Name’s Sake

 

And when we have a right relationship with Him, He deals with us through His mercy and grace.

“But You, O GOD the Lord, deal with me for Your name’s sake; because Your mercy is good, deliver me” (v. 21).

 

Proverbs 26.2:

The Curse of Sin

 

“Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.”

Certainly, this can apply to the laws of sowing and reaping, but the world as a whole is under the curse of sin. One day it will be destroyed because of God’s righteous judgment and will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21.1).

 

Galatians 2.1-21:

Justified by Faith

 

When God destroys the earth, those of us who have been justified by faith (v. 16) will not be destroyed with it.

1 Thessalonians 4:

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

God is in control of everything and the best preparation we can take for the catastrophic changes coming to the world is not environmental restrictions. It’s not stocking up on survival gear. The most important preparation is the preparation of our hearts and cultivating a passion to share Christ with those who don’t know Him.

Let’s not be like Hezekiah in the spiritual sense, thinking we won’t be around to worry about all this.

 

Coming Up:

In the next few days we’ll talk more about legalism, especially in our parenting, whether or not things God hates could be part of our lives and more.

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Blessings,
Donna


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“Could You Be a Legalist?” September 23

 

Are you a legalist? - I've heard it said that we are all legalists at heart. Are you a legalist? You might be surprised at the subtle ways we fall into it. Also read about: Hezekiah's amazing prayer and how we can pray the same way. One way to start preparing for 2017 and get your time with God off to a good start.

I’ve heard it said that we are all legalists at heart. Are there some subtle ways we fall into it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 37 & 38
Psalm 109.14-20
Proverbs 26.1
Galatians 1.1-24

 

Could You Be a Legalist?

 

Galatians 1.1-24:

What Is Legalism?

 

Have you ever spoken the truth to someone concerning some area of sin, only to have them say, “You’re being legalistic!”? Perhaps you’ve even said those words yourself. But is a call to obey God’s clear commands legalism?

Millard Erickson says:

Scripture does not give us any basis for disregarding God’s revealed commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14.15), and “You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jn. 15.14). We are not at liberty to reject such commands; to do so would be an abuse of Christian freedom. Therefore, we must seek to guide our lives by these precepts. Such behavior is not legalism. Legalism is a slavish following of the law in the belief that one thereby earns merit; it also entails a refusal to go beyond the formal or literal requirements of the law. It is ineffectual because it ignores the facts that we never outgrow the need for divine grace and that the essence of the law is love.

The words legalist and legalism don’t appear in the Bible, but Jesus painted us a portrait of a one in Luke 18:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Legalists are opposed to grace. Like this Pharisee, legalists often have a strict set of rules and regulations that must be kept. They often add to the Bible’s commands or apply them in harsh, judgmental ways. They fail to understand that the law was our schoolmaster to show us our need for Christ (Gal. 3.24-25) and that none of us can keep it perfectly (Rom. 3.10-12).

Legalism doesn’t change the heart. Paul said:

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Col. 2.20-23).

In today’s reading, the Galatians, who had received the Gospel of salvation by grace, had been infiltrated by Judaizers, men who wanted to impose their own legalistic requirements on them. It’s as if someone came into your church or mine and began to hold his own Bible study telling people they are not really saved unless they’ve been baptized, become vegetarians, get circumcised, take communion every week, worship on a certain day, or some other list of requirements. It may sound foolish, but if you don’t know the truth and have it firmly fixed in your mind, you will fall for anything!

 

A Subtle Trap

 

Legalism can show up in other, more subtle ways. Many people who sit in church every week, when asked if they’re sure they’ll get to heaven will say “yes,” but when asked why, will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”

What is that? It’s salvation by works. It’s one form of legalism! They may have received the gospel on an intellectual level, but in their hearts believe they must add something to it, and certainly must do something to keep themselves saved.

Another subtle sign of legalism is the expectation that if I keep my set of rules, I can expect God to keep what I see as His end of the bargain. I do “A,” God somehow owes me “B.”

Are you a legalist? - I've heard it said that we are all legalists at heart. Are you a legalist? You might be surprised at the subtle ways we fall into it. Also read about: Hezekiah's amazing prayer and how we can pray the same way. One way to start preparing for 2017 and get your time with God off to a good start.We find ourselves thinking:

“I can’t believe God is allowing this to happen to me, I go to church every Sunday.” Or …

“I homeschool my kids, take them to church, raise them right so, how could my son say he doesn’t believe?” Or …  Continue reading

“Is Your Faith Genuine?” September 22

 

Is Your Faith Genuine?How can you be sure you belong to God and your faith is genuine faith? What did the Apostle Paul mean when he said, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith”?

We’ll also read about:

  • The schemes of the enemy & how the devil wraps up sin so deceptively.
  • Imprecatory prayer.
  • What happens when we don’t exercise self-control.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 35 & 36
Psalm 109.6-13
Proverbs 25.27-28
2 Corinthians 13.1-14

 

Is Your Faith Genuine?

 

2 Corinthians 13.1-14:

What Is the Test of Genuine Faith?

 

In chapter 12 of yesterday’s readings Paul wrote:

“For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced” (12.20-21).

After that sharp rebuke, the Apostle wrote:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13.5 NASB).

As believers, we can and do sin, but genuine believers will experience conviction and, eventually, repent. If we can sin without any conviction, we too, should examine ourselves to see if we are really saved. A redeemed life will produce good fruit. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Lk. 6.44). And John the Baptist warned the Pharisees, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3.8).

No amount of “good fruit,” what is often called good works, can save us. The Prophet Isaiah said, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64.6). Paul said, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3.20)and when writing to the Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2.8-9).

We are saved by God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. But Paul went on to say in the next verse:

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2.10).

While good works cannot save us, the result of a changed life is good works or fruit.

It will vary in degree and amount and even the speed with which it is produced, but that fruit should include:  Continue reading