“How ‘Blame-Shifting’ Hurts You” March 21

 

Why You Shouldn't Be a Blame-Shifter - Are you a blame shifter? If so, how will it hurt you in the long run?Are you a blame-shifter? If so, how will it hurt you in the long run?

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 3 & 4
Psalm 36.7-12
Proverbs 12.7
Luke 1.1-20

 

How ‘Blame-Shifting’ Hurts You

 

Deuteronomy 3 & 4:

Finger Pointing

 

One thing we talk a lot about in counseling is Matthew 7.3-5 and how we need to remove the logs from our own eyes before we point the finger at anyone else.

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).

 

Where It Started

 

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

“4 Keys to Waiting on the Lord” February 26

 

4 Keys to Waiting on the Lord - 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!"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.


Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 21 & 22
Psalm 27.10-14
Proverbs 10.13-16
Mark 5.21-43

 

4 Keys to Waiting on the Lord

 

Psalm 27.10-14:

Growing in the Waiting

 

“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?” January 24

 

Where are You, Lord? & A Type of ChristWhere 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?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 47 & 48
Psalm 13.1-6
Proverbs 4.18-19
Matthew 15.21-39

 

Where are You, Lord?

 

Psalm 13.1-6:

How Prayer Changes Us

 

 

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.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Genesis 47 & Genesis 48:

A Type of Christ

 

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.

tin typeJoseph 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

“Favoritism, Impatience & Birthrights” January 13

 

Favoritism, Impatience & Birthrights - 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.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 25 & 26
Psalm 7.6-8
Proverbs 3.9-10
Matthew 9.18-38

 

Favoritism, Impatience & Birthrights

 

Genesis 25 & Genesis 26:

The Death of Abraham

 

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.

 

Parental Favoritism

 

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.

 

Selfishness, Impatience & Birthrights

 

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

“Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods” January 8

 

Functional GodsDo you ever find yourself trying to help God out just a little? You believe He’s going to answer some prayer, but you keep trying to figure out how, and pretty soon, you’re trying to orchestrate one of those possibilities. Abram and Sarai had been given a great promise, but years had passed with no answer in sight and they took matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, just as it does in our lives, it lead to all kinds of problems and revealed some things about their hearts.

Today, in “Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods,” we’ll talk about who or what is really “lord” at that point in time. We’ll also look at how all this relates to worry, how the only way we can stand before God is through “The Multitude of His Mercy” and “His Wisdom for the Upright.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 15 & 16
Psalm 5.1-7
Proverbs 2.6-9
Matthew 6.19-34

 

Kings, Kingdoms & Functional Gods

 

Genesis 15 & 16:

Helping God Out

 

When God called Abram to leave his homeland, He told him that He would make a great nation from his descendants, But here in chapter 15, Abram is starting to wonder:

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

God patiently reassured him that He would keep His promise.

4 … “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

“He believed God …” We know it was genuine faith because God “accounted it to him for righteousness.” He was saved by his faith just as we are.

So what happened next, after this great, faith-filled conversation with God?

One chapter later … God still hasn’t given them a child, so Sarai comes up with her own solution and Abram goes along with it. She gives her handmaiden Hagar to Abram as his wife so they can get the child they so desperately want. How like us they were! How many times do we complicate our lives by trying to help God out?!

polygamyOne of the questions I’ve been asked many times about this passage is, “Why did God allow this to happen? And why did He, so frequently, allow the patriarchs in the Old Testament to have multiple wives?”

“Allow” is the key word here. It wasn’t that God wanted them to do so. In fact, you can see in this story and in others, that it always leads to strife and problems of every kind. God doesn’t hide any of that. God’s word, not only reveals the truth about God, but it exposes human nature, even at its worst. God lets us see humankind with all our warts so we can see our desperate need for Him.  Continue reading

“What is the key to the Christian life?” November 17

 

Key to the Christian Life

What is the key to the Christian life?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 25 & 26
Psalm 128.1-6
Proverbs 28.25
Hebrews 11.17-40

 

What is the key to the Christian life?

 

Hebrews 11.17-40:

Hall of Fame of Faith

 

As we continue through the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” notice that all the Old Testament saints listed throughout this chapter received the blessings of God “by faith.” They didn’t achieve great things for God because of any inherent goodness in them, nor did they receive it because of their own bravery or intelligence or any other characteristic, but rather, through faith. The same is true today.

In fact, faith runs through all our readings today: faith to be saved (Eph. 2.8-9), faith to trust God’s ways in our Proverbs reading, faith to live the Christian life (2 Cor. 5.7), faith in prayer (Jas. 1.6, 5.15), faith to keep us from the pride we see condemned throughout Proverbs, and more …

We are to do all that we do in faith. In fact, Scripture says, anything not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14.23). We might even say that faith is the key to the Christian life. Over and over again we must put our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, the Holy Spirit’s power, and the Father’s faithfulness in our lives.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 25 & 26:

Those Who Put Their Faith in Him

 

In these two chapters God was declaring his intent to bring judgment on the pagan nations around Judah and Israel. But even while He brought judgment on those nations, He always responded in mercy to anyone who put his or her faith in Him. We see a great example of this in our New Testament reading in Hebrews where we are told that Rehab, a harlot, was saved because she put her faith and trust in the One True God (Heb. 11.31).  Continue reading

“Trusting God in Suffering” November 16

 

Trusting God in SufferingWhen 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?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 23 & 24
Psalm 127.1-5
Proverbs 28.24
Hebrews 11.1-16

 

Trusting God in Suffering

 

Ezekiel 23 & 24:

Understanding Suffering

 

What if God called you to make the sacrifice that Ezekiel had to make—losing his wife and not even being allowed to grieve (24.15-18)? Could you trust God to give you the strength to do it? Or would you fall into self-pity or a “why me” attitude?

How would you respond if the child you raised to love God becomes a prodigal, throwing aside everything you believe? Would you still trust God?

What if the doctor handed you a bad report? Or your child didn’t get better? Would you still believe that God is good?

What if you or your spouse lost a job or your savings or your retirement plan? Would you still be able to trust Him to meet your needs?

I know for some of you these questions aren’t hypothetical, they are reality. The truth is suffering is a part of life in this fallen world. Someone has said that we’re either in the midst of trial, coming out of one, or getting ready to go into one.

They may vary in degree and some may be easier to handle than others, but we all suffer.

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?

Could you say with the psalmist, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119.75)?

 

How to Grow in Trust

 

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know.

When your toddler jumps into your arms in the swimming pool for the first time, he doesn’t trust his ability to swim, he trusts you because he knows you. When your doctor says she needs to do surgery, you’ll either trust her diagnosis, or you’ll get another opinion.

A toddler learns to trust his parents because of his experience with them. You may come to trust your doctor because of her care and knowledge in other situations or because someone you know recommended her. But somehow we must have knowledge of a person if we’re to trust in them.

We trust God first by faith. We make the choice to believe His Word and to respond to His wooing, but we walk it out by coming to know Him through His Word.

 

What can we know about God that will steady us in trials and suffering? 

Continue reading

“When You’re at Your Wits’ End” May 14

 

At Your Wits End - David was at his wits' end, even his own men had turned against him. Yet he wasn't at his faith's end. Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord? How can you strengthen yourself in the Lord when you're at your wits' end?David was at his wits’ end, even his own men had turned against him. Yet he wasn’t at his faith’s end. Instead, David strengthened himself in the Lord? How can you strengthen yourself in the Lord when you’re at your wits’ end?

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 29, 30 & 31
Psalm 61.5-8
Proverbs 16.7-9
John 3.18-36

 

1 Samuel 29, 30, & 31:

A man after God’s own heart … are you kidding?

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 he should never have been involved in, God allowed the Amalekites to burn down his city and carry off all the women and children. Though even in the midst of it God protected them:

“… they did not kill anyone, but carried them away …” (v. 30.2).

Now that God had his attention, David did what he should have done before, he sought God’s guidance and He allowed him to recover all the people, all their possessions, and even to take the spoil of the Amalekites. God did, in His graciousness and mercy, what he often does, “… exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think …” (Eph. 3.20).

 

Unmet desires

Of course, 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. Continue reading

“Risky Faith & the Hill of Foreskins” April 8

 

Risky Faith & the Hill of Foreskins - Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee of never being hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking.Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee of never being hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking.

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 5 & 6
Psalm 42.6-11
Proverbs 13.19-21
Luke 9.18-36

 

Joshua 5 & 6:

A hill of foreskins

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” 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.” And all of us women who complain that we somehow have it harder, need to remember this passage and others like it.

This second generation had not been circumcised, just another symptom of their parents disobedience. 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 (the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.

This was also a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them very 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.  Once they had, he killed them all in revenge.

Remember word and fear was spreading throughout the other nations. This could have been seen as their only chance for victory. But God was faithful to watch over them when they obeyed Him.

 

Risky faith

But in the natural, 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. And sometimes persecution, pain, and rejection come as a result, even from our own families and those closest to us. Continue reading

“Fear not! He is there!” April 4

 

fear not

Whether it’s a bad report at the doctor’s, a wayward child, or a difficult marriage … fear not! He is there!

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 31 & 32
Psalm 40.6-12
Proverbs 13.11-12
Luke 7.31-50

 

Deuteronomy 31 & Deuteronomy 32:

Fear not! He is there!

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).

fear worry

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! That’s reason to rejoice!

Continue reading