Is there a key to the Christian life? If so, what is it and where does it come from? It runs through all our readings today and, in fact, throughout the Bible. Continue reading
Is there a key to the Christian life? If so, what is it and where does it come from? It runs through all our readings today and, in fact, throughout the Bible. Continue reading
When God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?
Trusting God makes all the difference in times of suffering. What can we learn about God that will steady us in tough times? Continue reading
A young man who was an avid hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he want to do so at a particularly scenic spot in the mountains where he hiked. His girlfriend, an “indoor girl,” agreed to go, but was having a difficult time with the trek. As she struggled with the ascent, he encouraged her by saying, “just step where I step.”
And that’s what she did, step by step. That “indoor girl” followed the young man she had grown to love and trust.
She made it. He proposed.
And later she said, even though it was challenging, it was so worth it! In fact, she said, it wasn’t as hard as it looked.
As my friend, Marie, was telling the story, I thought about the Christian walk. It, too, can be a challenging journey. It’s filled with steep ascents, unexpected turns, scary cliffs and falling rocks. It tests our stamina and our courage, at times.
But I wonder, do we make the journey harder than it needs to be, because of our failure to truly follow in the foot steps of our Savior?
Just as surely as He did to those first twelve disciples, Jesus says to each of us, “follow me.” Just step where I step.
Too often, we’re walking in our own strength, trying to do what we should through self-effort and wondering why it’s so hard.
We end up exhausted, burned out, or frustrated, because the Christian life can’t be done in our own strength (Matt. 9.26).
This isn’t just a problem for new believers. In fact, as we grow in Christ we may be more prone to self-effort. After all, we know the drill. We speak the language. We know what we should say and do. We’re not as desperate for His help and guidance, not clinging to Him one step at a time. We’ve walk the path before and can easily think, “I’ve got this.”
God knows our tendency and out of His love for us will take us on new paths, steeper journeys than we thought possible, so we see our need for Him. When He does, we’re sometimes shocked at our responses.
We may respond with sinful anger that we thought we’d dealt with years ago or find ourselves tempted with another sinful habit.
In our heart of hearts, we sometimes think “after all I’ve done to serve You, Lord, why would You allow this?”
Why would my child rebel after I’ve raised her right?
Why would my business fail after I’ve tithed all these years?
Why would my spouse walk out?
How can I be struggling with this?
It’s not fair!
That’s when we must look to Jesus and the path he walked ahead of us. We need to step where He stepped … when He was betrayed, misunderstood, falsely accused, arrested and crucified. We need to follow in His steps as He forgives those who reject and sin against Him today.
We need to forgive the unforgivable (Rom. 5.8; Eph. 4.31-32).
We need to love the unlovable (Matt. 5.43-48).
We need to submit to the harsh and unreasonable (1 Pet. 2.18-21, 3.1-2).
We need to bless those who revile us and do us wrong (1 Pet. 2.23).
We need to refuse revenge and overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
We need to release the prodigal to His love and consequences, yet stand ready to welcome him home (Lk. 15.11-24).
We need to refuse to be like the prodigal’s brother (Lk. 15.25-32).
We need to follow His steps as He loves and forgives us when we turn to other gods and commit spiritual adultery (Jas. 4.1-4).
We’ll soon realize that we can’t do that in our own strength. We won’t make it to the summit by hacking out our own path. Continue reading
How can you strengthen or encourage yourself in the Lord? What should you remember about God’s sovereignty, goodness, justice, and mercy? How might God be using this for good so that as Romans 8.29 says, you can become more like Christ?
1 Samuel 29, 30 & 31
1 Samuel 29, 30 & 31:
What was David thinking?! Wanting to join the Philistines and go to war against Israel! God used the princes of the other Philistine clans to prevent him from doing such a foolish thing.
But God wanted to get David’s undivided attention. So while he was off involved in a situation in which he should never have been involved, God allowed the Amalekites to burn down his city and carry off all the women and children.
“… they did not kill anyone, but carried them away …” (v. 30.2).
God would allow them to recover their families, all their possessions, and even take the spoil of the Amalekites. But David and his men didn’t yet know the outcome. They came home tired and anxious to see their wives and children only to find the city burned and their families gone. After they wept over their losses, their emotions turned to anger against David.
Matthew Henry in his commentary on the Bible says they had joined David because they believed he would become king and they expected to all be princes by now. Instead, it looked like they had lost everything. Their grief was coupled with discontent, impatience and disappointment over their unmet desires. To quote Henry, “Their own discontent and impatience added wormwood and gall to the affliction and misery, and made their case doubly grievous.”
David, on the other hand, demonstrated what made him “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13.14). He didn’t turn on his men. He didn’t point out their wrongs. He didn’t give in to fear over their threats. Instead, he “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (30.6) and sought His counsel (30.7-8). Continue reading
Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.
Joshua 5 & 6
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).
I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.
The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.
It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist. While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.
God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.
When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.
Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.
It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.
Sometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).
But, as believers, we shouldn’t go looking for persecution. We need to be wise and prayerful. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, says: Continue reading
Deuteronomy 31 & 32
Deuteronomy 31 & 32:
Repeatedly God tells us:
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (31.6).
Think about that, when we go for that doctor’s visit or procedure, He goes with us! When we go for that job interview or to share our testimony or all those other situations that tempt us to be afraid, He goes with us! When our children walk away from God or our spouse walks out, He is there.
When we’re tempted to worry about how we’ll pay the bills, live with the loss, handle caring for an aging parent or another baby … He is with us! He will not leave us or forsake us!
Verse 8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 37.4 says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
The more we write His law on our hearts and get to know Him, the better able we are to really “delight” in Him. Then the more we delight in Him, the more He fills our hearts with His righteous desires, which He in turn works out in our lives. Continue reading
Deuteronomy 3 & 4
Ezekiel 18.20 says, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
Yet, none of us is free from the tendency to want to blame someone else for our sins. Look at Moses statement in chapter 4:
“Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and swore that I would not cross over the Jordan, and that I would not enter the good land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance” (4.21).
All this blaming-shifting actually started in the garden. When God asked Adam if he had eaten the forbidden fruit, he said, “The woman you gave me, she made me sin.” In other words, “It’s her fault and Yours, after all, You gave her to me!”
And what did we say, ladies? “It was the devil. He made me do it!” And it’s been going on ever since!
But sadly, we only hurt ourselves when we do. Continue reading
How well do you handle “waiting on the Lord”? Do you have an “I’m waiting … I’m waiting …” while you drum your fingers on the table attitude? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I’ve prayed, but nothing seems to be happening!”
Why does God allow us to wait, anyway? Can “waiting on the Lord” be a good thing? Can we learn to trust Him … really trust Him as a result? And if so, how? See today’s reading from Psalm 27.
Leviticus 21 & 22
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (v. 13).
When are we most tempted to lose heart? It’s often when we’re faced with difficult circumstances or life isn’t going the way we thought it should. Maybe we’re being attacked in some way and God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers.
David said he would have lost heart if he didn’t believe in the goodness of the Lord, not just in the promise of heaven, but here and now … in the land of the living.
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that we don’t encounter problems or have struggles. Jesus said it this way:
“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.”
But we’re sometimes tempted to lose heart, become impatient, or take matters into our own hands, because we have failed to believe in His goodness toward us. We fail to trust that He knows what’s best and will bring it to pass in His perfect timing.
David had problems. He had enemies. But he believed that God’s faithfulness and goodness would prevail.
We, too, can go through troubles knowing that God will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13.5), that he will not give us more than we can handle without sinning (1Cor. 10.13), that He is using them for good (Rom. 8.28), that we are not alone, that others have gone through and are going through similar trials (1 Cor. 10.13), that we can count it all joy knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, patience and maturity (Jas. 1.2-4) and as Jesus said, we can be of good cheer knowing that He has overcome them all!
Verse 14 tells us twice to “wait on the Lord.” This is not to be an “I’m waiting … I’m waiting … I’m waiting for You to do something, Lord!” while we drum our fingers on the table! This is a patient waiting and trusting in the Lord and His timing.
But how do we get there? How do we go from knowing these truths to KNOWING these truths? Here are 4 keys to growing in the waiting: Continue reading
Where are You, Lord? Ever felt that way? Maybe you’ve been deeply hurt, possibly by someone close to you. Maybe it’s a financial trial or a serious illness. Whatever it is, we need to be like the psalmist in today’s reading.
Joseph was said to be a “type of Christ.” A type is a picture (like the old “tintypes,” pictures taken during the 1800s). In this case, a picture of Christ, a glimpse of what was to come. What exactly does that mean and how should his example inspire us today?
Genesis 47 & 48
Here we see the progression that comes by faithfully, and honestly, lifting our requests to God in prayer. The Psalmist prayed:
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (v. 1).
He was saying, in effect, “Where are You, Lord?” Ever felt that way?
In spite of not fully understanding, the psalmist prayed in faith:
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken (vss. 3-4).
Then he goes on:
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me (vss. 5-6).
The psalmist made a conscious decision to trust God. He chose to focus on the faithfulness of God.
We, too, can choose to trust God in our trials!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3.5).
Our prayers may start out, as the psalmists did, “Where are you, Lord?” But if we stay faithful, God will not only faithfully answer according to His will and His timing, but we will be changed as we grow in our ability to trust Him.
Joseph and his family have been reunited. Here in chapter 47 we see Joseph’s care for his aging father, “Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh” (v. 7). Somehow I see Joseph helping his elderly father into some kind of a chair so Jacob can show his respect to Pharaoh and pray for him. But he doesn’t just care for his father; he also cares for his brothers. In verse 11 Joseph “situated his father and his brothers” and in verse 12 he “provided” for his father and his brothers. Remember, these are the same brothers who sold him into slavery.
Joseph is a type of Christ. A type is a picture (like the old “tintypes,” pictures taken during the 1800s). In this case, a picture of Christ, a glimpse of what was to come. We can look at those old photos and see that while they were not perfect images, they give us some idea of what the real person looked like. In the same way, when we look at the various “types of Christ,” each one gives us an idea of some of the attributes of our Savior. Continue reading
Isaac’s and Rebekah’s twins, Jacob and Esau, are grown now. Isaac’s favorite is Esau, a hunter and man’s man. Jacob, it seems, was a mama’s boy and homebody. Their favoritism led to manipulation and deceit that would, eventually, split their family apart.
In today’s reading the first cracks appear as Jacob manipulates his impatient, impulsive brother. In the process, Esau throws aside his birthright. His behavior has a great lesson for us as believers in Christ.
Also, read about “God Our Righteous Judge,” the blessings that come from “Honoring the Lord in Our Giving,” and about spiritual and physical healing in “Unless the Father Draws Him.”
Genesis 25 & 26
In these two chapters we see Abraham’s remarriage to Keturah after Sarah’s death and the record of other children. We also see Isaac and Ishmael reunited by Abraham’s death. It appears that their love for their father was greater than any differences they might have had.
We also see the confirmation of God’s promise to make Ishmael the father of twelve princes. Ishmael and his twelve sons were the forefathers of many of the Arab peoples. Ishmael plays an important part in Muslim tradition, where he is considered a prophet. While there are differences of opinion about Keturah’s identity, her sons were probably the forefathers of other Arab tribes.
In Genesis 25.19 Isaac and his family take center stage in the Genesis narrative. We see God using barrenness again to work His purposes. After twenty years Isaac prays for God to open Rebekah’s womb and God answers with the conception of twins. When the pregnancy is difficult, Rebekah prays and asks God why. He answers:
Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (25.23).
As the sons grow up they are very different. Esau is a hunter and outdoors-man while Jacob is a homebody. And sadly, Isaac and Rebekah each have a favorite (25.28). Even though, God will use all of this for His divine purposes, we can see from their story some of the problems favoritism causes.
Tomorrow we’ll read more about the consequences of favoritism. If there are similar issues in your family I would encourage you to study these passages carefully and prayerfully, seeking Gods help and wisdom.
But favoritism wasn’t the only family issue.
While Ezekiel 18.20 tells us that each person is responsible for his or her own behavior, we also see in Scripture that children learn from their parents. And in chapter 26.7 Isaac tells Abimelech’s men that his wife is his sister, just like his father Abraham did. So while we’re not responsible for their choices, we are responsible for the example we set.
But for now let’s look at chapter 25.29-34,
29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.
31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”
32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”
33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.”
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Esau:
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears (Heb. 12.12-17).
I don’t know about you, but, on the surface, that sounds pretty harsh to me. What was it that Esau did? Or does it go deeper, to who he was? Continue reading