“Could You Be a Legalist?” September 23

 

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

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

 

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

 

Could You Be a Legalist?

 

Galatians 1.1-24:

What Is Legalism?

 

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

Millard Erickson says:

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

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

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

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

Legalism doesn’t change the heart. Paul said:

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

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

 

A Subtle Trap

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Heartbreak of Abortion” July 16

 

The Heartbreak of Abortion - Ahaz was one of Judah’s wicked kings. Can you imagine a king so evil he would sacrifice his children as burnt offerings to false gods?

Yet … children are still being sacrificed to the false gods of fear, inconvenience, and greed in abortion clinics today.

The idea that abortion solves “a problem” is a lie. It doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.

Conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances. But what should those of us who believe it’s wrong do?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 28 & 29
Psalm 84.8-12
Proverbs 21.6-8
Acts 19.21-41

 

The Heartbreak of Abortion

 

2 Chronicles 28 & 29:

Increasing Unfaithfulness

 

In chapter 28 we read about another of Judah’s ungodly kings, a man by the name of Ahaz.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.

Because of his evil behavior, God allowed them to be defeated on every side. We should always keep in mind that while God held Israel’s and Judah’s leaders responsible for their leadership, the people followed their wicked leaders into sin and idolatry. So God’s judgment was neither unfair nor indiscriminate.

Sadly, instead of turning around, Ahaz went farther into sin and idolatry.

22 Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.

 

Child Sacrifice & Abortion

 

Verse 3 said, “He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire …” Can you imagine a king so evil that he would sacrifice his own children to false gods! And yet, it still goes on today! Children are sacrificed at the abortion clinic to the gods of inconvenience, selfishness, fear and greed.

Some are sacrificed to cover up another sin as David tried to do about his sin with Bathsheba. Some are sacrificed because their conception is inconvenient or simply unwanted. Sometimes young girls and their babies are preyed upon by greedy abortion purveyors.

Suffering, Crime & Child Sacrifice - What if you were called to endure suffering or hardship for the cause of Christ? Would you be willing to risk it all? Does crime sometimes pay? And what about child sacrifice? Is it something that only happens in pagan societies?You may think that I bring up abortion too often. I do so NOT to put condemnation on anyone who has had an abortion in the past:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8.1).

The blood of Christ covers ALL our sins when we come to Him in saving faith. But I do believe abortion is possibly the greatest evil of our day and we must be willing to stand up against it no matter how unpopular it makes us!

The lie that abortion solves “a problem” permeates our society. But conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances (Gen. 29.31, 30.22).

Abortion doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.

Suffering, Crime & Child Sacrifice - What if you were called to endure suffering or hardship for the cause of Christ? Would you be willing to risk it all? Does crime sometimes pay? And what about child sacrifice? Is it something that only happens in pagan societies?If you or someone you know is contemplating an abortion or has had one in the past, I want to encourage you to contact a crisis pregnancy center in your area. They offer help and counseling to those who are pregnant and post-abortive counseling to those who have had an abortion in the past. Many offer counseling to fathers, too. If you live in El Paso you can contact Pregnancy and Fatherhood Solutions.

If you are being pressured to have an abortion, you have rights, no matter what your age. LIFECALL can tell you how to protect your baby and your rights. They can even provide an attorney free of charge. God loves YOU and YOUR BABY.  Continue reading

“Giving God Our Best” December 31

 

Giving God Our Best & Proverbs 31 -Happy New Year’s Eve,

Congratulations to those of you who have been reading all year and to those who started somewhere along the way. I hope you’re looking forward to starting again in the coming year.

As we read in Malachi today, let’s purpose in our hearts to give God our best in 2017 … to offer Him the firstfruits of our time in the morning … to be faithful with our tithes and offerings … to use our talents and resources to further His kingdom, to bring Him glory in all we do, and to honor Him in our marriages or our singleness or whatever our situation!

Our final passage in Proverbs pictures “the virtuous wife.” How do the characteristics of this ancient model speak to us today?

Finally, as you read the final 2 chapters of Revelation, allow John’s vision of the glories to come excite your heart!

 

Today’s Readings:
Malachi 1-4
Psalm 150
Proverbs 31.10-31
Revelation 21 & 22

 

Giving God Our Best

 

Malachi 1-4:

Finances, Time, Talent & More

 

As is all of God’s Word, this little book is rich with His truth. In chapter 1 we see the importance of giving God our best, not what is left over, whether that means finances, time, talent or some other resource.

God rebuked the people because, instead of giving the best of their flocks as a sacrifice, they offered the stolen, the lame and the sick animals.

Many times, instead of giving God our best we give Him what’s left over, if anything. We can’t tithe or give to the work of God because we are too strapped with huge mortgages and car payments. Perhaps we need to drive that older vehicle a little longer or adjust our budgets in other ways.

Instead of spending time with Him first thing in the morning, we rush off to work or get busy with our day, promising to read His Word before we go to sleep. At night, we’re too exhausted to read more than a few verses before we fall asleep without giving it serious thought or attention.

morning coffee tea bibleI don’t want to sound legalistic, because the Bible does not say we must spend time with God first thing in the morning. There may be some who are at their best at night. I also understand that some of you have young children who, as someone said, “Wake up at the first crack of the Bible.” But for most of us, morning is the time when we are most rested and when spending time with God is the most profitable.

In chapter 2 God rebukes the priests because, among other things, they took the covenant relationship of marriage lightly. And remember as new covenant believers we are all priests to the Lord (1 Pet. 2.5).

First, they knowingly disobeyed God by marrying unbelievers (2.11). Then those who were married were divorcing their wives:  Continue reading

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time*

 

15 Ways to Enhance Your Quiet Time* when you have so littleDo you ever feel like your quiet time is just another thing on your to-do list? Or do you ever wonder why yours is ho-hum when everyone else makes such a big deal out of it? You want to enjoy it and be excited when that alarm goes off at 6 a.m., but every day you hit the snooze button again!

 

We all know it. A daily quiet time is important. But with kids … and a job … and so much to do everyday, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

If you have little ones, it may be like someone once said, “My kids wake up at the first crack of the Bible!” There’s no doubt about it, children, especially younger ones, make it challenging to find time for yourself and God.

We live in a culture that values activity. Most of us hit the ground running every morning: carpools, breakfast, kids to drop off, jobs, errands to run, homeschooling, email, social media, blogging, you name it …

We set the alarm a few minutes early, but hit the snooze button. We not only snooze through our quiet time, but through any margin we had, too. The next thing we know, we hurrying the kids, grabbing a bagel on the way out the door, and rushing off, only to get caught in traffic!

So how can we fit in a regular, daily quiet time and make the most of the time we have? Here are 15 suggestions:


  Continue reading