“Suffering & Sin” August 8

 

Suffering & Sin - While we don’t know another’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, ... can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering?While we don’t know another person’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering or, at least, make it worse?

Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, do you know what that mission is and are you being a good steward of it?

And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, were raised in a Christian home, have “always believed in God,” have been baptized, taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 7 & 8
Psalm 92.8-15
Proverbs 22.17-21
Romans 9.1-15

 

Suffering & Sin

 

Job 7 & 8:

Soulcare

 

In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.

Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”

In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering, which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1.1).

That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But sometimes we respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or in other sinful and self-defeating ways.

confronting comfortingAnd there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1-2).

How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sinful response to another person’s sin?

Continue reading

“Biblical Hope & Eternal Security” August 7

 

eternal security

What is biblical hope? Is it the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope? And what about eternal security? Can a believer lose his salvation?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 5 & 6
Psalm 92.1-7
Proverbs 22.16
Romans 8.22-39

 

Biblical Hope & Eternal Security

 

Romans 8.22-39:

Biblical Hope

 

Verses 24-25, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

fingers crossedBiblical hope is not the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope, as if something might happen.

Although it has not yet happened, biblical hope is a sure thing, because it is based on God’s promises.

Paul gives us some of the greatest examples of biblical hope in the remainder of this chapter! Verses 28-30:

28 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. 29 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. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In verse 28 He promises to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Notice it said all things! Is that thing you are going through part of the all things? Yes! (Notice, Paul didn’t say all things are good, but that God would use them for good.)

In verse 29 He says that God has predestined us to be like Christ. If we are truly saved, God is working in our lives to make us more like His Son, and sometimes, He uses tests and trials and difficult people to do that. Instead, of murmuring and complaining we need to see it as God’s hand molding and shaping us.

But God’s promises in this chapter don’t end there.

 

Eternal Security

 

eternal securityThen he says, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (vs. 30). We won’t be glorified until we get to heaven. That means if He called us and justified us (made us right with Him), He will glorify us. We will not lose our salvation somewhere along the line! What a great promise of our eternal security!

If that’s not enough and to be sure we get it, Paul asks the question:  Continue reading

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: the Divine Squeeze + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’ll look at tests and trials.

 

The Divine Squeeze

 

It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.

But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!

That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.

Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.

My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient.  My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”

Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.

But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).

 

Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them.  Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:

 

It’s always my fault.

Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.

If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).

The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).

Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.

 

It’s always someone else’s fault.

Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.

 

It’s no one’s fault.

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.

We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.

 

A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.

This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

 

So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?

 

10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: 10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

1. We all experience trials and sufferings.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).

 

2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.

I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).

 

3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.

He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.

 

4. God is never the author of sin.

Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).

Continue reading

“Responding to Difficult People”

 

Responding to Difficult People

Do you have any difficult people in your life? Most of us do. Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard? So, how does God want us to respond to them?

 

Responding to Difficult People

 

This is the second post in a series about what Paul Tripp calls “Living Between the Already and the Not Yet.”

The first post was “5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us” based on Philippians 1.6:

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

We talked about Jude 24 and how God tells us that one day He will cause us to stand before Him faultless.

But there is a progression to it. By God’s grace we are progressing from what we were on the day of our spiritual birth (the “already”) and what Jude talks about in verse 24 (the “not yet”).

Here between the “already” and the “not yet” God is progressively changing us as we learn to:

1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-5).
2. Accept His discipline (Heb. 12.5-11).
3. Keep the 2 great commandments (Matt. 22.37-40).
4. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
5. Trust in His sovereignty (Rom. 8.28-29; 1 Cor. 10.13).

Today in the second post in that series, we’ll talk about how we should respond to difficult, even sinful, people.

 

Difficult Relationships

 

Do you have any difficult people in your life? Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard?

It could be a work situation or a family situation. Maybe you’re being mistreated, insulted or falsely accused?

The truth is, most of us have relationships that are challenging!

In counseling much of what we deal with concerns relationship issues:

  • A couple may come because they can’t be in the same room without fighting.
  • A wife may come because her husband is harsh and unloving.
  • Parents come because a child is disrespectful and angry.
  • Someone else comes because they are still struggling with mistreatment or abuse from childhood.
  • Parents come with a child who is being bullied.

 

How do these things fit into God’s plans and purposes for us?

 

Let’s just say for a minute “Lois” comes in. Her husband is harsh and unloving and not even willing to come for counseling.

Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says that we are all fellow sufferers AND fellow sinners. Even when we are sinned against, we complicate the situation by our responses.

So Lois finds herself yelling, complaining, gossiping to friends, and even threatening her husband with divorce. Now things are not going well. In fact, life has gotten hard!

I will often draw what we call the “Y- Chart” and share with her this simple phrase “Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”

 

y chart

“Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”

 

Pleasing Self

 

Pleasing self starts out easy. It comes naturally to us. But …

Proverbs 13.15 says “the way of the transgressor is hard.”

What starts out easy gets hard; things don’t go well. Our sin only worsens the situation.

Psalm 32.10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.”

And Romans 2.9 says:

There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil

Synonyms for those two words “tribulation” and “distress” include depression, shame, guilt, anxiety, affliction, agony, hurt, misery, pain, torment, and woe, just for starters.

Doing evil can involve sins of commission or sins of omission. Sins of commission are things we do that we shouldn’t and sins of omission are our failures to do what we should.

 

 

y chart Pleasing self starts out easy, but, eventually, life gets hard!

 

Pleasing God

 

The other way … pleasing God, starts out hard. It goes against our natural way of thinking.

We have thoughts like: “If I let him get away with that, he’ll think it’s ok” or “Do you expect me to be a doormat?” It’s hard! But … Jesus said in Matthew 11.28-30:

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

 

y chartWhat starts out “hard” gets easier and our burden gets lighter.

 

A minute ago I quoted Romans 2.9:

“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …”

But verse 10 says:

“but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good …”

John 13.17 says, now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. And James 1.25 says it’s the doer of the Word who will be blessed.

So back to Lois … life has gotten hard, there’s tribulation and distress, made worse by Continue reading

“Running to God When We Want to Run Away” August 6

 

Life, including pain and heartache, happens to us all, but if we don’t know the essential character of God, we will be tempted to blame Him and run away, instead of running to God when we need Him the most.

Also, read about “the rod of correction” when it comes to parenting and one of the most freeing verses in the Bible.

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 3 & 4
Psalm 91.14-16
Proverbs 22.15
Romans 8.1-21

 

Running to God When We Want to Run Away

 

Job 3 & 4:

The Essential Character of God

 

In chapter 3 Job poured out his grief in very descriptive terms. He had just lost all 10 of his children. His grief was real and powerful. He wished he had never been born.

While today we might not tear our clothing and put dust on our heads, those who are grieving will almost always express their deep sorrow—through tears, wringing of the hands, crying out to God, etc. Strong emotions and outward manifestations of grief are not wrong, but must be kept in their proper place, amount and duration. They cannot be allowed to overtake our lives.

Remember what Job’s first response was after the initial shock and physical reaction (Job 1):

21 And he said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

Though he didn’t understand the “why,” Job knew the essential character of God. If you’re struggling to understand or accept God’s circumstances in your life, don’t run from God; run to Him. Get to know Him better. Learn about His attributes—beginning with His goodness, His mercy, and His holiness. Knowing Him will enable you to trust Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

 

Running to God - Life, including pain and heartache, happens to us all, but if we don't know the essential character of God, we will be tempted to blame Him and run away, instead of running to God when we need Him the most. Also, read about "the rod of correction" when it comes to parenting and one of the most freeing verses in the Bible.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 91.14-16:

Those Who Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty

 

Verse 14 begins with God saying, “Because he has set his love upon Me …” MacArthur defines that word love as “ ‘a deep longing’ for God or a ‘clinging’ to God.”

Is that you? Do you long for God? Do you long to know Him? Do you cling to Him in times of trouble, or doubt, or fear? God isn’t looking for strong, independent people, He’s looking for those who will be dependent upon Him—who will “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91.1).  Continue reading

“God & Satan, Heavenly ‘Battle of the Bands’?” August 5

 

"Satan & God, Heavenly 'Battle of the Bands'?" - The battle is raging and we see evidence of it all around us. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves. But is it really a fair fight?The battle is raging and we see evidence of it all around us. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves. But is it really a fair fight?

Also, read about how “lions” can keep us from moving forward with the plans and purposes God has for us.

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 1 & 2
Psalm 91.7-13
Proverbs 22.13-14
Romans 7.1-25

 

God & Satan, Heavenly “Battle of the Bands”?

 

Job 1 & 2:

Adversary, but Not Equal

 

The book of Job may be one of the least understood books in the Bible. So let’s pray that God will give us fresh insight into this book. Remember “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable …” (2 Tim. 3.16).

The book starts out in “God’s heavenly courtroom” and helps us understand that not everything that happens is the result of sin in a believer’s life. Sometimes God allows something for His holy, just and righteous purposes. There were many such purposes in what was going on here in the book of Job.

This wasn’t some “battle of the bands” between God and Satan. First, even though Satan is God’s adversary, he is not God’s equal! He is a created being who cannot do anything in the life of a believer without God’s permission.

Everything in our lives has been filtered through God’s loving hands and He promises to use it all for our good (Rom. 8.28). But we can believe that only to the degree we know Him, know His character, and understand His love for us.

Even when, for His divine purposes, God allows Satan some entrance into a believer’s life, He sets limits on it (Job 1.12, 2.6). 1 Corinthians 10.13 says:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

God knows what we need in our lives to develop us as believers, but will not allow more than we can handle if we will rely on Him. It’s not about what we can handle in our own strength, but about what He wants to do in and through us. One of His good purposes is, often, to help us learn to rely on Him in a greater way.

Even though Job never knew what went on in heaven, God recorded it in His Word for our benefit (1 Cor. 10.11), to help us understand and trust that God is always in control.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 91.7-13:

Satan and Scripture

 

This beautiful psalm pictures God’s care for His children. It’s interesting that the devil quoted verses 11 & 12 during Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4.1-13). You see, the devil knows the Scriptures, too, but twists them to suit his evil purposes. In Luke 4 he misused this passage in an attempt to get Jesus to do something foolish. He tried to get Him to jump off the pinnacle of the temple by saying, in effect, “If God has commanded His angels to take care of You, You can just go ahead and jump!” Continue reading

“Why Bother Living Right?” August 4

 

Why bother living right? - If God is willing to forgive sin, why not just live any way we want and confess it later? Why bother living right?Why bother living right? If God is willing to forgive sin, why not just live any way we want and confess it later?

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 9 & 10
Psalm 91.1-6
Proverbs 22.12
Romans 6

 

Why Bother Living Right?

 

Romans 6:

Shall We Continue to Sin?

 

In the previous chapters Paul has been explaining how we’re saved by grace and kept by grace rather than any “good works” of our own. Though we could do nothing to save ourselves and no amount of good works will cause God to love us more, it doesn’t mean we should live any way we want.

Chapter 6 begins:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (vv. 1-2).

Our obedience shouldn’t come from some feeble attempt to stay in God’s good graces. It should come from our love and gratitude for all He has done.

Maybe you’re thinking, why not just live the way we want since God saves by grace and forgives sin?

God’s saving grace is available to all who call on Him in faith and sincerity (Rom. 10.13), but when He saves us, He also changes us. 2 Corinthians 5.17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

So while our good works can’t save us and God will forgive the genuinely repentant, our good works are the evidence of a changed life and our lack of desire to live righteously is often evidence of an unredeemed life.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (Matt. 7.21-23).

Many will say …” There are many people in the church doing “religious” things who don’t have a genuine relationship with Christ. They may give intellectual assent to the truths of Scripture, but they have failed to see their sinful state and need for a Savior. They have never really put their faith and trust in His finished work on the cross which is the only basis for entry into the kingdom of heaven.

So while they may go to church and say the right things about what they believe, the fruit of their lives on a day to day basis is often not the fruit of a changed life.

 

Why bother living right? - If God is willing to forgive sin, why not just live any way we want and confess it later? Why bother living right?

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Esther 9 & 10:

God’s Word Will Stand

 

So we come to the end of the book of Esther and our glimpse into the lives of the Jewish people still living in exile. This conflict between Haman and Mordecai actually reached back to the time of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt when the ancestors of Haman attacked the Israelites. Because of it, God declared a curse on them which included their total annihilation.

500 years later Saul defeated them and was told to destroy them along with all their animals. Because he disobeyed, their lineage continued and culminated in this tribal feud between Haman and Mordecai.  Continue reading

“Our Hope in Trials & Uncommon Friends” August 3

 

Our Hope in Trials

Tests and trials: no one likes them. We don’t pray for them. In fact, we pray to avoid them. But trials come to everyone. So, what is it that sustains us in trials? What gives us hope? You might be surprised.

Also, read about the quality of friendship. You see, common friends are … well … common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends … are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 7 & 8
Psalm 90.7-17
Proverbs 22.10-11
Romans 5

 

Hope in Trials & Uncommon Friends

 

Romans 5:

Saved by Grace and Kept by Grace

 

In the previous chapters Paul explained salvation by grace—how God saves sinners through the free gift of salvation based on our faith in Christ. Here in chapter 5 Paul explains how, as sinners saved by God’s grace, we are kept by the same grace—how it is God and God alone who is able to present us, “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). No amount of good works could save us and no amount of good works can keep us! I hope you’ll take the time to read this chapter for yourself, if you haven’t already.

 

The Gospel: Our Hope in Trials

 

But let’s take a closer look at the first five verses:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Verse 8 goes on:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You may have heard the expression, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” Have you thought about what that means? We typically think of the gospel as a one-time thing, something we accept once and then move on to Christian living. But we need the gospel everyday. A true understanding of all that the gospel encompasses makes living the Christian life a joy. It’s what sustains us in trials and encourages us when we fail.

We need to remind ourselves that God loved us even while we were still sinners. Christ died for us knowing full well every sin we would ever commit and every time we would reject Him. If we understand that He loved us then, we will better trust that He won’t reject us when we fail.

He died for every sin whether committed before and after we come to know Him. Rather than giving us a license to sin, fully comprehending that should help us to love Him back, desire to live to please Him, and to love others with the same kind of love.

We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4.19).

But don’t miss verses 3-5. As we come to fully understand the gospel, we can trust God when we’re going though a trial. We should remind ourselves that the God who loved us enough to die for us, will not allow any test or trial in our lives that He won’t use for our good. We can trust Him to walk through it will us, to sustain and strengthen us, to grow our faith, and to help us mature to become more and more like His Son.

 

Proverbs 22.10-11:

Common or Uncommon?

 

Uncommon Friends - Common friends are ... well ... common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends ... are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?


Two of the words used to define “common” are ordinary and unexceptional. But what does an “uncommon” or true friend look like? How does he speak? What are her motives?

Verse 11 says:

“He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.”

This verse reminds me of a book I read many years ago called Uncommon Friends about a man by the name of James Newton who became friends with Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and others because of the quality of his friendship.

What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend? Do you have “purity of heart” and “grace on your lips”?

Being an uncommon friend doesn’t mean constantly flattering the other person. In fact, Proverbs 27. 6 says the opposite:

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Someone who is “pure in heart” wants the best for his or her friend. Sometimes that means “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15). But being “pure in heart” also means being willing to sacrifice for your friend. Sometimes real friendship is inconvenient, but when you love someone, it’s not a burden.

What is the quality of your words to and about your friends? Are they full of God’s grace and mercy? Or are they laced with sarcasm or harshness? Do you speak well of your friends or do you gossip and criticize? Continue reading

“Are We to Forget When Others Sin Against Us?” August 2

 

Are We to Forget When Others Sin Against Us? - Are We to Forget When Others Sin Against Us?What does it mean that God “remembers our sins no more”? Does it means He forgets? Does He expect us to forget what others have done to us?

Also, have you ever wondered “Where is God?” Why doesn’t He seem to be answering my prayers? Why is he allowing this?

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 5 & 6
Psalm 90.1-6
Proverbs 22.9
Romans 4.1-25

 

Are We to Forget When Others Sin Against Us?

 

Psalm 90.1-6:

Remembering Our Sins No More

 

Did you notice the title of this Psalm? “A Prayer of Moses the Man of God.” I love the way God remembers the good and not the bad. A few days ago in Nehemiah, David was called “the man of God.” Did God forget about David’s adultery? Did He forget that Moses struck the rock when he was told to speak to it?

He didn’t “forget,” He chose to “not remember”!

Lori Wilhite and Brandi Wilson, in their book Leading and Loving It, have this to say about “not remembering”:

We love this anecdote that author Linda Dillow shares [in her book Calm My Anxious Heart], about Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross. Clara was reminded of a vicious deed someone had done to her years before.

“Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Clara’s reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” She had made a conscious choice to forgive a vicious deed, a conscious choice to continue forgiving when reminded of the deed. By replying, “I distinctly remember forgetting it,” Clara Barton was saying, “I remember choosing to forgive, and I still choose to forgive.”

Forgiveness is both a decision and a process. The decision is choosing to “not remember” and the process includes reminding ourselves of that and leaving the situation in God’s hands.

paidAs believers, all our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. God chooses to “not remember” them against us(Is. 43.25) and He asks us to imitate Him (Eph. 5.1) and to choose to forgive just as He has forgiven us (Eph. 4.32).

In reality, “not remembering” is different from “forgetting.” God doesn’t have amnesia and neither do we. When we sin, that sin is a debt we owe to God and others (Matt. 18.21-35). God chooses to not charge that debt to our account, but to charge it to Jesus’ account and that account was paid in full on the cross.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Esther 5 & 6:

Where is God?

 

Where is God? - Have you ever wondered "Where is God?" Why doesn't He seem to be answering my prayers? Why is he allowing this?

God is always at work, on behalf of His people, even when we can’t see what He is doing. In the book of Esther, there is no prophet, no direct words from God. God’s activities are not, at first, apparent.

But He causes a pagan king to suffer a sleepless night and to ask his servant to read to him—from a government record. What an unlikely “bedtime story.” Then God has the reader go to something that happened five years previously, concerning one of His servants, Mordecai, and his loyalty to the King! As you will remember from yesterday’s reading, Mordecai is in wicked Haman’s crosshairs.  Continue reading

“Would you raise your hand?” August 1

 

Would you raise your hand? - What if God gave you a dangerous assignment? Would you be willing to go? Would you raise your hand and say, "I will go and if I perish, I perish"? Our passage in Proverbs warns us about the slavery of debt and Paul, in our New Testament reading, hits us with the issue of sin and then shows us God's cure. What if God gave you a dangerous assignment? Would you be willing to go? Would you raise your hand and say, “I will go and if I perish, I perish”?

Also, our passage in Proverbs warns us about the slavery of debt and Paul, in our New Testament reading, hits us with the issue of sin and then shows us God’s cure.

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 3 & 4
Psalm 89.46-52
Proverbs 22.7-8
Romans 3.1-31

 

Would You Raise Your Hand?

 

Esther 3 & 4:

If I Perish, I Perish

 

Paul warned the Galatians that those who belong to the enemy will persecute and mistreat God’s children.

“But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now” (Gal. 4.29).

The devil has always been out to destroy that which God loves. It’s true today and it was no different in Esther’s day. But the good news is that the sovereign Lord was, is and always will be in control of the ultimate outcome.

Because of God’s favor, Esther was now Ahasuerus’ Queen, but even as Queen, her right to come into the King’s presence was limited. But now her people were in great danger and her Cousin Mordecai sent her a message to let her know she needed to petition the King on their behalf. Such a bold move could cost her life.

But Mordecai’s words to Esther encouraged her to trust in God’s sovereignty, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (vs. 14) and she responded in faith, “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (vs. 16).

I, actually, think Mordecai’s question was more of a challenge than a question. Look at the rest of verse 14:

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

What about you and me? This is the time and place that God has chosen for us to live and bring Him glory (Acts 17.26). This is the family. This is the spouse. This is the nation. This is the time.

How would you respond if standing up for God or His people could cost your life? Most of us won’t be faced with the risk of, literally, losing our lives, but we are, at times, faced with the risk of losing favor or reputation or some other temporal benefit. How would we respond?

Jesus said:

23 …If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Lk. 9.23-26).

Are we willing to take a stand? Are we willing to be used by our sovereign God for this time in the kingdom? Could we say with Esther, “I will go and if I perish, I perish”? Would you raise your hand? Would I?

Continue reading