“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

“5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our Lives” September 21

 

5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our LivesPaul was one of God’s most faithful servants. Why would God allow something so difficult in his life that Paul called it “a thorn in the flesh”? Could the reasons be the same reasons He allows “thorns” in our lives? If so, we would do well to better understand them.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 33 & 34
Psalm 109.1-5
Proverbs 25.25-26
2 Corinthians 12.1-21

 

5 Reasons God Allows Those Thorns in Our Lives

 

2 Corinthians 12.1-21:

My Grace is Sufficient

 

Here in chapter 12 Paul talks of being taken up to the “third heaven” either literally or in a vision (vss. 1-4). The things God spoke to him there were so incredible, that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to help him keep his feet on the ground and remember that it was all about God and that he was just a vessel.

But were there other reasons for Paul’s thorn? Could they be the same reasons God allows “thorns” in our lives, too? Verses 7-10:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 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.

 

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you ...


5 Reasons God Allows Thorns in Believers Lives:

 

1. To reveal our spiritual maturity (or lack of; vss. 5-6).

Nothing tests our character or helps us grow in spiritual maturity like tests and trials (Jas. 1.2-5). It’s easy to claim faith in God and change in us when life is easy, but when our faith is tested, we may find there are areas where we’re trusting in something other than Christ.

2. To humble us (v. 7).

None of us is immune to pride. Pride is not something Paul was tempted with or maybe you are, but not me. Pride is something with which we all struggle. It’s just a matter of how and where it shows up. Tests and trials keeps us real with ourselves.

3. To draw us to Himself (v. 8).

Paul “pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from [him].” It’s easy to get lackadaisical about our time with the Lord when things are going well, but when times get tough, believers run to their Father.

4. To display His grace (v. 9a).

When we bring our troubles to the Lord, we want Him to simply remove them. Paul did, too. But often, God’s answer is to give us the grace to walk through them, instead. He teaches us to apply His Word to specific situations and grows us in faith and trust in Him. Through it all, God does what only He can do, especially in us.

5. To perfect His power (v. 9b).

When we see our own weakness and cry out to Him, God’s power can work in and through us in amazing ways. Suffering and hardship remove the dross of self-sufficiency, selfishness, and pride and make us pure channels for God’s power.

 

When I Am Weak

 

When Paul recognized God’s purpose in his trials, he could proclaim, “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.”

If we stay focused on how much we dislike the trial or get into self-pity and a why-me attitude, we miss what God wants to do in and through us. But when we surrender our pain and suffering to Him, admit our weakness, and rely on His strength and wisdom, He does great things.

 

Just a note about verse 4: Paul said when he was taken up into heaven, he heard, “inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” If the great Apostle was not permitted to share what he saw of heaven, it certainly should make us question the claims of those who say they did and have come back to tell us all about it.

Whether it’s our own experiences or those of others, we always need to filter them through the lens of Scripture.  Continue reading

“The Cost of Turning Our Backs on God” September 20

 

Turning Our Backs on God - When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 30-32
Psalm 108.7-13
Proverbs 25.23-24
2 Corinthians 11.16-33

 

The Cost of Turning Our Backs on God

 

Isaiah 30-32:

Do Not Prophesy to Us Right Things

 

Over and over throughout these passages God is warning His people to not rely on themselves or their own wisdom and not to turn to false prophets who merely tell them what they want to hear. He also warned them not to turn to outsiders, other nations, no matter how strong they look. The message is “I am sovereign—I am in control.”

He warns them that all the false prophets, all the strong nations, all the wisdom of man will ultimately be brought to nothing. With all the problems in our country today many cling to the idea that some leader, some program, some philosophy, some scientific discovery will solve our problems nationally and individually. We are so much like the people in Isaiah’s time (30.9-13):

Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;
10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
And to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
11 Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.”

12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel.

“ Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.

 

Turning Our Backs on God - When Jesus spoke truth to the rich young ruler, he turned and walked away. And Jesus didn’t stop him! If we as individuals, or even as a nation, are determined to continue turning our backs on God and refusing to live His way, He will let us! But the results could be disastrous.The list of things we no longer want to hear as a nation is endless:

  • That rebellion and disrespect is wrong (1 Sam. 15.23). Consequently, we disrespect police officers and other authority figures. Our children, in turn, disrespect us, their teachers, and anyone else who tries to tell them what to do.
  • That marriage is to be between one man and one woman for a lifetime (Matt. 19.4-6). Consequently, the rate of divorce and of couples living together without marriage happens across all levels of society in huge numbers and without any shame. And now so-called gay marriage has become the law of the land.
  • That sex is holy and reserved for the marriage bed (Heb. 13.4; Rom. 1.24-32). Consequently, sex outside of marriage in all of its forms is rampant: adultery, fornication, rape, incest, molestation, homosexuality, pornography and more.
  • That life is precious and God is the giver and taker (Acts 17.24-25; Ps. 139.13-16). Consequently, abortion is now called a woman’s right, euthanasia has been openly debated and practiced, murder is rampant in many of our cities, and mass shootings because of anger, hate, or political ideology happen all too often.
  • That work is God-ordained and the way God provides for His people on a day-to-day basis (2 Thess. 3.10; 1 Tim. 5.8). Consequently, we have husbands and fathers who find every excuse possible not to work and provide for their families, people who know how to “work the system” going from agency to agency, organization to organization, even church to church getting every handout they can, and others who live much of their lives dependent on the government. (Bear in mind, that other passages commanded God’s people to care for the genuinely needy and unable to work.)

And if we continue going our way and turning our backs on God, things will get worse, but the answer is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: to return to God, not to become independent, but God dependent:  Continue reading

“The Most Powerful Force in the World” September 19

 

The Most Powerful Force in the World - With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we've all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.   Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.   But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we’ve all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.

But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 29
Psalm 108.1-6
Proverbs 25.21-22
2 Corinthians 11.1-15

 

The Most Powerful Force in the World

 

Proverbs 25.21-22:

Three Stories

 

Another Monday morning. Jeannie would have to pray. She and Sue were the only two women on a job that was hard enough without Sue’s constant antagonism. It was made worse by the fact that, as far as Jeannie knew, she had never done anything to warrant her hatred.

The cheating began just a few months into their marriage. Mary had cried, yelled, spied on him, and threatened to leave. Each time Joe would tell her he was sorry and promise to break off the affair. But before long, she’d overhear a conversation, someone would call and hang up, or Joe would stay out all night and she’d know.

Karen’s husband worked hard. He came home every night. He paid the bills. But week-ends were a nightmare. Before the sun set on Friday, Bill was well into a bottle of bourbon and the more he drank, the angrier he got. More than once he had pulled out his gun and waved it around, even pointing it at Karen.

 

Jeannie’s Story

Each workday Jeannie determined to be kind to Sue, in spite of her cursing and cheap shots. But there were days when she went home in tears and cried out to God for another job.

Then one day after a particularly angry outburst, Sue stopped and just stared at Jeannie. “What is wrong with you? Everyday you come back and treat me right no matter what I say or do!” What followed were tears, but this time they were Sue’s and not Jeannie’s, as she poured out a story of heartbreak and abuse. Eventually, she accepted an invitation to attend church with Jeannie where she found the grace to let God heal her heart.  Continue reading