“Are You Prepared?” September 9

 

Are You Prepared? - We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and, even, hatred. Christian organizations that support the traditional family and are pro-life have been listed as "hate groups" along with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Earlier this week Amy Barrett, a highly qualified nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit and a devout Catholic, was questioned about her religious convictions by two well-known Senators, even though the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office. And we've probably just begun to experience the hostility and persecution that the Bible tells us will come.We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and, even, hatred. Christian organizations that support the traditional family and are pro-life have been listed as “hate groups” along with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

Earlier this week Amy Barrett, a highly qualified nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit and a devout Catholic, was questioned about her religious convictions by two well-known Senators, even though the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office.

And we’ve probably just begun to experience the hostility and persecution that the Bible tells us will come.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 9 & 10
Psalm 106.1-5
Proverbs 25.1-2
2 Corinthians 1.1-24

 

Are You Prepared?

 

2 Corinthians 1.1-24:

Epic Changes

 

Paul Nyquist in his book, Prepare, says the following:

Get ready. An exciting, yet terrifying era is beginning for American believers. As cultural changes sweep our country, we’ll soon be challenged to live out what the Bible says about confronting and responding to persecution. For nearly 250 years, Christians in America were able to live in relative freedom from persecution. We escaped because our society historically embraced and promoted biblical values. Our founding fathers penned a Constitution esteeming religious freedom and establishing that rights come from God, not the government.

But we’re witnessing an epic change in our culture— a spiritual climate shift threatening to reshape life as we know it. Hostility and intolerance are replacing toleration. Rejection and even hatred are pushing aside acceptance.

John S. Dickerson, in his well-researched book The Great Evangelical Recession, writes, “In the coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change— a force more violent than many of us expect. Evangelicalism in the United States has stood strong through centuries of difficulties and setbacks. She has not seen anything quite like what she will see in the next fifty years.”

The complete title of Nyquist’s book is Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture. The world around us is changing rapidly and, whether we want to or not, we need to be prepared.

More and more often, Christians will be forced to choose between saying and doing what’s pleasing to God and what’s acceptable to those around us. And those opposed to biblical values are increasingly bold and vocal about their opposition and loathing.

Just this week, two well-known Senators challenged a judicial nominee about her ability to carry out the law because of her Catholic beliefs.

According to The Washington Post:

Amy Barrett, a nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit, has spoken often of her Catholic faith and drawn opposition from liberal groups, which argue that she’d place it above the law. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, echoed those concerns Wednesday at a confirmation hearing, telling Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern …”

Here is the full context of Feinstein’s comments:

Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that — you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.

It’s clear what Feinstein, a stalwart defender of abortion rights, is getting at here, given that her questioning of Barrett focused heavily on Barrett’s views of Roe v. Wade. But her use of the word “dogma” has plenty on the right alleging that she’s applying a religious test to Barrett’s nomination.

The Constitution, of course, prohibits religious tests, saying that ” … no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Some on the right now say Feinstein is violating that, too.

 

Are You Prepared? - We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and, even, hatred. Christian organizations that support the traditional family and are pro-life have been listed as "hate groups" along with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Earlier this week Amy Barrett, a highly qualified nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit and a devout Catholic, was questioned about her religious convictions by two well-known Senators, even though the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office. And we've probably just begun to experience the hostility and persecution that the Bible tells us will come.


How to Prepare

 

Persecution has always been a reality for believers in Christ. It may vary in degree in different cultures and time periods, but Jesus warned us to expect it (Jn. 15.20). The Apostle Paul said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3.12).

In fact, in spite of the fact that it flies in the face of some current teaching, the Bible says persecution is good for us. James said:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (Jas. 1.2-4 NLT).

Persecution, when responded to rightly, develops Christian character, helps us mature in Christ, draws us closer to the Lord, and is a testimony to the world. So how do we prepare to face it when it comes?  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

“Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture” July 21

 

Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture

 

With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger, but we must choose whether to fear God or fear man in the increasingly anti-Christian culture we live in.

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 3 & 4
Psalm 86.11-17
Proverbs 21.17-18
Acts 22.1-30

 

Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture

 

Ezra 3 & 4:

Fearing God or Man?

 

In chapter 3, even though the people who returned to Jerusalem had the authority of the king behind them, there was still opposition from the people already living in the land.

Verse 3 says, “… fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries …” But in spite of their feelings they determined to do what was right and to worship God as Moses had instructed them to do.

Even though there is a move to restrict our rights as believers, we still have a great deal of freedom under the laws of our land. And while Romans 13 instructs us to obey those who rule over us, even that has limitations. Anytime someone in authority asks us to sin, we have a higher authority—that is God and His Word.

With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger. There will be times on the job (even when we are within our rights), with our friends, or in our families where we will feel fear—fear of being ridiculed, fear of being rejected, fear of what people will think, fear of being labeled unloving or intolerant, even in some cases, fear of losing our jobs or our businesses. But, we too, can do what’s right in spite of our feelings.  Continue reading

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2 + LINKUP

 

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2 - When sin entered the world it was accompanied by an uninvited guest … FEAR. Yet, the Bible tells us over 450 times, “fear not” or similar words. Find out the two root causes of fear and learn to overcome it biblically in your own life.

 

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We’ve covered anger and depression. Last week we started talking about fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Fear & Worry

 

Last week I said that some sins are so common they’ve almost become acceptable, even among believers in Christ. Though we may spin them with words like: concerned, disturbed, or troubled, fear and worry fall into that category. Last week we focused on worry, how it comes from a divided mind, that it has sinful roots, and how it’s a form of idolatry. Today we’ll focus on fear.

 

Fear

 

The minute Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, an uninvited guest called “fear” showed up, too. Genesis 3:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

When Cain killed his brother Abel and was banished, he responded with self-pity and fear. Genesis 4:

13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

We fear what God will do. We fear what people will do. We fear what people think of us. We fear someone taking advantage of us or not loving us. We fear being disrespected. We fear all over the place.

 

“Fear Not”

 

Handling Fear & Worry God's WayYet, in His Word, God told us not to fear over 450 times.

He told a fearful mother:

17 … Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 21.17-18).

He assured the nation of Israel of His help and deliverance by telling them to “fear not” (Is. 41.10, 13, 14). And in chapter 43 He said:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

In Exodus 4 God reassured a fearful, insecure future leader:

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

11 So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

And when he persisted, God sent his brother Aaron with him (Ex. 4.13-17).

In the New Testament, Paul told a nervous young preacher named Timothy:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1.7).

 

2 Root Causes of Fear

 

2 Root Causes of Fear - Instead of addressing Adam’s fearful feelings in Genesis 3, God addressed the roots of sinful fear:

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

In that short verse He summed up the two causes of fear: who we are listening to (11a) and sin (11b).

Yet, God does not intend for His people to live in fear.  Continue reading

“Sex, Manipulation & Revenge” January 21

 

Sex, Manipulation & RevengeGod created sex. He designed our sexuality as a means to delight and bring pleasure to one another within the marriage relationship. But, sadly, as our culture knows all too well, “sex sells” and it has been twisted and used throughout the ages to manipulate and entice and for many other evil purposes, including revenge.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 41 & 42
Psalm 10.12-18
Proverbs 4.7-9
Matthew 14.1-21

 

Sex, Manipulation & Revenge

 

Matthew 14.1-21:

He Must Increase

 

Here we have the sordid story of King Herod, Herodias (Herod’s wife, his half-brother’s ex-wife and daughter of another half-brother) and Herodias’ daughter. It’s Herod’s birthday and this young girl is dancing for the men at the party—most likely a drunken “men’s affair” like a bachelor’s party or “gentlemen’s club” (what an oxymoron that is!)

Herodias, had probably noticed the way Herod looked at her young daughter when he thought she wasn’t looking, and instead of protecting her daughter, she used her to manipulate Herod into giving her what she wanted! And what she wanted was revenge—John the Baptist’s head on a platter! John had publicly spoken against her sinful behavior and she had decided to get even!

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her.10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother (Matt. 14.6-11).

After John’s death, we see Jesus’ grief over the loss of His cousin.

“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself …” (v. 13).

But it was time for John to leave the stage and for Jesus to take full prominence. Remember John himself had said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3.30). God can and does use sinful people to fulfill His divine purposes.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Genesis 41 & Genesis 42:

Joseph’s Story & Your Story

 

Here in these two chapters God’s purposes begin to unfold in Joseph’s life. God has used trials to prepare him and in the chapters to come we’ll see that he has learned to trust God’s workings in his life. Now he’s ready to be placed on the world stage and to be reconciled with his family.

How difficult it must have been for Joseph when God gave him the interpretation of the Butler’s and the Baker’s dreams, and yet, to have it seemingly end there! It may not have seemed so strange to us because we know the end of the story, but think about it from Joseph’s perspective.

What has God allowed in your life that seems to make no sense? How can understanding Joseph’s story help you patiently wait on God in your own life?

Finally, if you have a strained relationship with someone in your family, Continue reading

“True Freedom” September 30

 

true freedom

Like the fool who thinks he’s wise, what we call freedom often leads only to bondage. So what is true freedom?

Also, read about the fear of man. Proverbs tells us it is a trap into which we can easily fall. What is it and how can we be free from it’s grip?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 51 & 52
Psalm 112.5-10
Proverbs 26.16
Ephesians 2.1-22

 

True Freedom

 

Ephesians 2.1-22:

Freedom or Bondage

 

Like the fool who thinks he’s wise in today’s Proverbs reading, we were once dead while thinking we were alive. We thought we were free when we were in bondage.

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (2.1-3).

We look back at Eve and think, “How could she have been so easily deceived?” But what about us, as modern women, we bought the farm when it comes to being deceived!

business woman, overworkedWe decided …
We should be “free” to work just like men.
We should be “free” to have sex just for pleasure with no commitment.
We should be “free” to have a career and a family.
We should be “free” to be attracted to women instead of men.
We should be “free” to get a divorce if we’re not happy.
We should be “free” to not have kids.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying it is sinful for a woman to work or have a career, but I’m talking about the attitude that says we should be free to do whatever we think will make us happy.

We were not only “dead in trespasses and sins,” but blind and deaf and deceived and in bondage when we thought we were alive and educated and enlightened and free!

And for the gentlemen reading this, we women don’t have the market on deception.

computer pornToo many men have bought into the lie that they’re “free” to look at whatever they want on the internet.
That they don’t need to be involved in spiritual things. They can leave that to their wives.
That new toy or a new woman will make them happy.
That divorce is fine and the kids will get used it.

True freedom can only be found “in Christ” and as we discover that we can be free from the guilt and penalty of our sins. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8.36). True freedom is the freedom to do what’s right. The self-proclaimed freedom to do whatever we want only leads to bondage.

Praise be to God, that we were once dead, but now are alive. We were once blind, but now we see! We were once slaves to sin, but are now free to be what God has called us to be!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 51 & 52:

What would they think?

 

Chapter 51.12-13:

12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die,
And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?
13 And you forget the LORD your Maker,
Who stretched out the heavens
And laid the foundations of the earth;

Matthew 10 says:

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

How much time we waste “fearing man”! It’s another kind of bondage into which we can easily fall. Not just fearing what they might do to us physically, but what they think of us, what they might say about us, or how they might sin against us.

“If they find out I’m a Christian, they’ll think I’m a ‘goody-two-shoes’.”
“If I don’t have sex with my boyfriend, he might leave me.”
“If I give in to my wife, what will I tell the guys?”
“If I submit to my husband, he’ll walk all over me.”
“What would they think if they knew about my past?”
“If I don’t lie for my husband, he might lose his job.”

Proverbs 29.25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”

Do we really want to trust in that which cannot save us? It’s really no different from those Old Testament people who trusted in idols they had carved from a tree trunk or formed with their own hands—gods who are not gods.

Our concerns need to be:  Continue reading