Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.
But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.
If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.
Even if this is your first day visiting this blog or you just visit occasionally, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!
On “Forcing” Religion on Your Children
Judges 1 & 2:
A Generation Who Did Not Know the Lord
As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.
In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:
“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”
More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard well-meaning parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.
On the other side of the equation, we need to be careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on some legalistic standard that drives your children away from God.
Yesterday was Easter. If you attended church, you probably sang about the blood of Christ that was shed for your sins, but the singing didn’t stop there. You, probably, sang about the Resurrection, too. You rejoiced that the tomb is empty and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, having overcome death, hell, and the grave.
But as church goers in America there is a certain danger in the familiarity of all that. We aren’t faced with the choice of committing to Christ and facing persecution, even death, or remaining what our culture says we are, at least in name, whether Muslim or Hindu or some other religion. So instead, we run the risk of being cultural Christians, what our family or our tradition says we are … Christians in name only.
When an observer in Jesus’ time asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He warned that the gate is narrow. And when the people of Joshua’s day claimed that they would serve the Lord, he told them not to take that commitment lightly. Are there many today who have failed to heed those warnings? Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel?
That should be heart-breaking for those of us who truly understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today’s post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!
You Choose … Whether to Serve the Lord or Something Else
What a rich portion of Scripture! Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he wants to leave everything in order. He takes time to remind the people about all God has done for them and encourages them to remember how He has been faithful to His Word.
In 23.12-13 he warns them about intermarrying with unbelievers. This is still true today. If you are single and considering marriage or if you do in the future, remember, we are free to marry only in the Lord! (1 Cor. 7.39) – that is to another believer.
Then Joshua calls them to make a choice as to whom they will serve:
“…. choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (v. 24.15).
And when they are quick to say, “We also will serve the Lord,” he challenges them that this is no flippant profession, this is serious business and they should count the cost and mean what they say.
Is He Lord?
Today many talk about “cheap grace.” If you want to go to heaven, just ask Jesus to come into your heart and He’ll forgive you for your sins and you’ll have your ticket to heaven.
It is true that we can do nothing to deserve salvation and nothing to save ourselves. It is by grace alone through faith alone. But Jesus didn’t imply that it was “cheap.” First of all, it wasn’t cheap for Him. He paid the ultimate price.
Part of coming to Him in faith means we recognize our desperate need for Him and that we are sinners with no ability to fix ourselves. There is to be repentance (a change of heart and mind leading to change in the direction of our lives) and a willingness to acknowledge Him as Lord (Rom. 10.9-10; Acts 2.36). Lord … Master, God, the One who has the right to tell us what is right and wrong and how to live our lives!
Have you truly put your faith and trust in Him for your salvation?
Jesus gave an even stronger warning in today’s New Testament reading.
The Narrow Gate
Jesus warned that the gate is narrow (v. 24) and that many who think they have entered, have not. Verses 23-27:
23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’”
What a terrifying thing, to think you’re assured a place in heaven, yet hear those words, “I do not know you.”
The striving Jesus talked about is not our good works or self-efforts. In fact, we can’t get to heaven based on our own righteousness, because we don’t have any of our own (Rom. 3.10-12).
Today the gate is open (Heb. 3.15). God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2.4), but we must believe and receive the Gospel.
11 He came to His own, and His owndid not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1 Jn. 1.11-13).
Is it your church membership or the fact you were born into a Christian family? Is it your good works? Is it simply that you believe in God? Is it that you once prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, or got baptized?
Those are all good things and may take place as part of our salvation experience. But none of them, in and of themselves, can save you! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone (Eph. 2.8-9). His grace, received through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Jesus said, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1.15).
So What is the Gospel?
If you have any doubts about whether or not you have believed the Gospel, I would encourage you to watch this video by Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary. It’s a little long, but you can’t listen to Dr. Horton’s explanation and not realize what incredibly GOOD NEWS the Gospel really is! Continue reading →
Many people consider parenting to be the mother’s job and, even if they believe both parents need to be involved, mom often ends up with most of the responsibility. But parenting isn’t a one-person job. God intended for moms and dads to parent as a team.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 14 “Parenting as a Team”
We’re in a series on God’s design for marriage. If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can read them here. In today’s post we’ll talk about how important parenting as a team is to our marriages and to our children.
Ephesians 6 says:
¹ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
There is so much packed into those four short verses. More than I could ever address completely in a single post. So, if you’re a new believer, new to parenting, or have a desire to grow in this area, I have provided an extensive list of resources in another post, “Parenting from the Foot of the Cross.” I hope you’ll check it out.
But, for today, I want to focus on the team aspect of parenting.
Many people consider parenting largely the mother’s job and, even if they believe both parents need to be involved, mom often ends up with most of the responsibility. But notice, Paul addressed verse 4 directly to fathers.
Of course, he’s speaking to mothers, as well. But the father, as the head of the home, has the responsibility to see that children are brought up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 5.22-24; 6.4). He is the one who will ultimately answer to God (1 Tim. 3.4-5).
But parenting isn’t a one-person job. God intends for moms and dads to parent as a team.
I understand there are many godly single parents out there. Some are single, not by their own choice. Others came to Christ after becoming parents or are single for a variety of other reasons. But I think we would agree that God’s design has always been for children to be raised in a home with a mother and a father. Continue reading →
Paul Tripp compares living in our world to life in “a broken down house” where none of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. Instead, the plumbing doesn’t work, the roof leaks, and things don’t work right.
Neither are we guaranteed all the time we would like to accept or reject the gospel. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” None of us are guaranteed tomorrow!
1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Certainly, there are laws of sowing and reaping and we shouldn’t think we can live any way we desire without consequences. Galatians 6.7-10:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
But even when we desire to live righteous lives, we should remember that we live in a world that Paul Tripp compares to “a broken down house” where the plumbing is bad, the roof leaks, and things don’t work right. Our world, our bodies, and even our minds, have been damaged by the effects of sin in the earth. Things happen: disease, natural disasters, and calamities of every sort. None of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. In fact, we’re not even guaranteed tomorrow!
And when it comes to God gracious gift of salvation through the gospel, neither can we take it for granted. It’s a dangerous thing to bank our eternity on the fact that we were raised in a Christian home or we’ll get our lives right after we’ve had our fun.
2 Corinthians 6.1-2:
1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
If you’re not sure you have a right relationship with Him, please don’t think you’ll always have another opportunity.
Even as believers, we have no guarantees. Let us live everyday as fully and as mindfully as if it was our last.
I found it interesting that the Levites were given cities in the territories occupied by the other tribes rather than isolated in their own territory. This enabled them to be examples to the people, but also put a responsibility on them to live upright lives.
Like us, their walk was to match their talk. Paul said we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5.20), lights in a dark world (Phil. 2.15), and that our goal in life should be to please God (2 Cor. 5.9). Continue reading →
Satan, the accuser of the brethren, seldom rests. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse us when it comes to serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God. Is there any refuge from his accusations?
Chapter 20 talks about the cities of refuge where someone accused of murder or manslaughter could run for safety until a judge could decide his or her fate. Otherwise their accuser might decide to take justice into his own hands.
Our next reading, Psalm 46, reminds us that God Himself is our Refuge from Satan, our accuser (Rev. 12.10). Revelation 12 tells us that he accuses us day and night, sometimes in the throne room of God, as he did with Job. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse us about serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God by telling us that our efforts are inadequate or what we have done in the past is too bad and God will never use us.
Either way, we have an Advocate. 1 John 1.7-9, 2.1-2:
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
And Hebrews 7.25 says, “… He always lives to make intercession for us.”
If we have been regenerated, born again by the Spirit of God, then Christ has paid the price for our sins and Jesus, our Divine Attorney, is our Defender.
TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:
God is our Refuge
This beautiful psalm should remind us from where true peace and stability come. The answer is not from government; even the greatest can fail. It’s not in our finances or our intelligence or anything else on earth. Only God is the “refuge and strength” that will never fail. If we fear God, we don’t need to fear anything else! Continue reading →
What’s going on in your heart and mind? Is there peace and trust? Or worry and anxiety? How should we respond when anxiety or other negative emotions threaten to have their way?
Even if you haven’t followed along lately, I hope you’ll take the time to read this post. Our thinking is so important and learning to think biblically makes all the difference in our emotional condition.
Verses 22-31 repeat much of what we read a couple of months ago in Matthew 6 about worry and trust in God, but we can never hear these things often enough. Verses 29-31:
29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
I especially like verse 29, “And do not … have an anxious mind.” Why are we so often anxious? What, generally, controls our emotions?
Philippians 4 says:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Have you ever prayed and given some situation to God, only to find yourself worried about it a hour later? Why do we find it so hard to leave our troubles with God?
I believe the answer is in verse 8.
When it comes to worry and anxiety, it’s not enough to pray and then go back to thinking about it, trying to figure out how God’s going to solve the issue, or as we often do, fretting about what we should do to fix the problem. We need to change our thinking.
It’s no accident that verse 8 follows 6 and 7. “Finally …” after you’ve prayed about it, “meditate on these things”! Think about them deeply.
What is it we’re to think about deeply?
We’re to focus on what’s true, not the what if’s and maybe’s. We’re to think about the greater truths. It may be true that your husband has lost his job, but the greater truth is that God is your Provider (2 Cor. 9.8; Phil. 4.19).
We’re to think about what’s noble and lovely. Believe the best of others. Don’t see them in the worst possible light. See them as God sees them. And remember no one is too hard for God (Prov. 21.1).
Think of the good, those things for which you can be thankful. Think about how God has taken care of you in the past and how You have seen Him work in the Bible and in the lives of people you know.
2 Corinthians 10.4-5 says:
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Notice the words “arguments”, “knowledge” and “thoughts.” These strongholds have to do with our thinking and patterns of thinking. We take our thoughts captive by replacing them with God-honoring, God-filtered ones.
When we’re tempted to worry and be anxious, we must remind ourselves that if the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. We won’t lack anything we need. But, as I heard someone say, Psalm 23.1 may be the best known and least believed verse in the Bible.
When we start to wonder if our spouse will ever change, we must remind ourselves that our job is to first take the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7.5), that we overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.21) and that doing good to the other person will be the most likely way to bring conviction (Rom. 12.20).
When we start fretting about our children, we must remember that God only asks us to be faithful (1 Cor. 4.2) to teach and train them using godly principles (Eph. 6.4), not to unnecessarily frustrate them (Col. 3.21) or provoke them to anger (Eph. 6.4), and to leave the results in His hands (Prov. 22.6).
But in order to take our thoughts captive to these truths and others, we must first put God’s word in our hearts and minds. Romans 12.2 tells us:
“… be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And Psalm 119.9-11 (NASB) says:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
So when we’re feeling anxious or worried or a host of other negative emotions, let’s stop and take an inventory of our thoughts.
The Sovereign God who watches over all the details of life is watching over us. He knows what we need. Our focus is to be on doing the things that advance His kingdom. But if we’re not purposefully thinking and meditating on those things, our default modes of worry, anxiety, anger, other sinful thought patterns will take over.
How Journaling Can Help
When I’m counseling people struggling with emotional issues, I often ask them to keep a journal. It’s often very revealing for them to slow down and ask themselves a series of questions. Continue reading →
Our perception, the filter through which we “see” everything has a tremendous effect on our lives. I often tell people in counseling that we are affected much more by what we “think about” what happens to us that what actually happens to us.
So how do you view the events of your life? What is your filter? Are you looking through the lens of Scripture or through the world’s lens? Are you seeing through the sovereignty of God or through a self-focused lens?
Verse 34, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.”
John MacArthur in his Daily Bible says, “The problem was their perception, not a lack of light.”
Our perception, the filter through which we “see” everything has a tremendous effect on our lives. I often tell people in counseling that we are affected much more by what we “think about” what happens to us that what actually happens to us.
As believers and children of the Sovereign God of the Universe, we should filter everything through the lens of Scripture beginning with verses like Romans 8.28-29:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
When we’re tempted to compare ourselves to someone else financially, socially or career wise, do we allow envy to get a foothold or do we trust our loving heavenly Father to know what’s best for us?
When we must forgive – again – do we remember how much we’ve been forgiven and forgive graciously, or do we hold a grudge, give the silent treatment, or hold out for proof the other person really means it? Continue reading →
Are there areas of your life where you have failed to have victory? Are there some habits of the old man (what my old friend Pastor Morgan used to call the old idiot) that have crept back in or never fully left?
This was a time of relative peace, though as I said yesterday, there were still areas that needed to be fully occupied. There were also pagan tribes they never fully destroyed as God commanded. Those groups would be thorns in their sides for generations. They would draw them into false worship, attack their cities, and create a multitude of problems.
Isn’t that the way it is in our lives? He saves us, puts our feet on the Rock, gives us new righteous desires, and many things in our lives change. But, even though, we may have quit doing a lot of the things we used to do (sometimes because God has supernaturally removed the desire for those things), there are still “pockets of resistance”—areas of our lives where we hold on to “old man” habits (Eph. 4.22).
Maybe it’s a tendency to gossip, to harbor unforgiveness, to give someone the silent treatment, or to respond in sinful anger. Maybe it involves our thought lives … “After all, (we think) I’m not doing anything wrong!” We mistakenly believe we can play around with a thought or a fantasy without it showing up some where in our life or walk with God
The added danger is that as months and years go by without dealing with that area of sin and as we push conviction away, our consciences are seared and we become blinded. Continue reading →