Are there areas of your life where you have failed to have victory? Are there some habits of the old man (what my old friend Pastor Morgan used to call the old idiot) that have crept back in or never fully left?
This was a time of relative peace, though as I said yesterday, there were still areas that needed to be fully occupied. There were also pagan tribes they never fully destroyed as God commanded. Those groups would be thorns in their sides for generations. They would draw them into false worship, attack their cities, and create a multitude of problems.
Isn’t that the way it is in our lives? He saves us, puts our feet on the Rock, gives us new righteous desires, and many things in our lives change. But, even though, we may have quit doing a lot of the things we used to do (sometimes because God has supernaturally removed the desire for those things), there are still “pockets of resistance”—areas of our lives where we hold on to “old man” habits (Eph. 4.22).
Maybe it’s a tendency to gossip, to harbor unforgiveness, to give someone the silent treatment, or to respond in sinful anger. Maybe it involves our thought lives … “After all, (we think) I’m not doing anything wrong!” We mistakenly believe we can play around with a thought or a fantasy without it showing up some where in our life or walk with God
The added danger is that as months and years go by without dealing with that area of sin and as we push conviction away, our consciences are seared and we become blinded. Continue reading →
As a nation we have complained, taken credit for God’s blessings, and kicked Him out of the government, the schools, and the public arenas of life. Has our complaining and rejection of God finally produced “fire in the camp”?
Chapter 11.1, “Now when the people complained, it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”
God had been merciful to the Israelites. He had delivered them from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. He not only brought them out of Egypt without a fight, but had caused the Egyptians to give them a great deal of wealth as they left (Ps. 105.37). He led them and protected them from the pursuing Egyptian army and parted the Red Sea so they could cross on dry land. He comforted them and warned away their enemies with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
As they traveled their feet didn’t swell and their clothes didn’t wear out (Neh. 9.21). He fed them with food from heaven (manna), gave them water in the wilderness and demonstrated His power and presence over and over.
Yet … what did they do? They complained!
And what about us as Americans or you wherever you live? We live in perhaps the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth. Our poor are better off than the majority in many nations. God has blessed us with an abundance of natural resources, a beautiful land, creativity and ingenuity beyond measure. We have freedoms almost unheard of in the world: freedom to worship, freedom to vote, freedom to pursue an education, freedom to live where we want, even freedom to protest. Instead of being thankful we frequently complain.
Not only have we complained, but we have taken credit for the things with which He has blessed us and kicked Him out of the government, the schools, and the public arenas of life. Is it any wonder our complaining, unthankfulness, and rejection of God as a nation has finally produced “fire in the camp”?
The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can go ahead and sin even though we know it’s wrong, then we can ask God to forgive us and that’s all there is to it! But that’s rebellion against God and you can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time. But there’s an even bigger problem with this kind of thinking.
Also read about chocolate covered dirt, foolish talk and dirty jokes.
In chapter 57 God, through the prophet, is rebuking his people for their continued turning to and reliance on false gods. God poses the question, “Is it not because I have held My peace from of old that you do not fear Me?” We might say it this way, “Do you keep sinning because I haven’t been hard enough on you?”
Is that true of us? Do we abuse God’s patience and mercy by thinking we can live any way we want and believing He isn’t going to deal with sin and faithlessness? Hebrews 3.13 says:
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can sin now and ask forgiveness later, even though we know it’s wrong, as if asking for forgiveness involves some magic incantation or get out of jail free card. That’s rebellion against God and His Word. You can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time.
Sometimes we understand the choice to sin will have consequences. Yet we can be like a stubborn, rebellious child, determined to do it anyway and just “take our licks.” The problem is that, while we can choose to sin, we don’t get to choose our consequences. Continue reading →
What should a mature Christian life look like? Is it the things we do, like going to church or reading our Bibles? Is it the “big sins” we don’t do, like getting drunk or stealing? What did Paul mean when he said, “walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4.1)?
Verse 1 begins with “I, therefore, … beseech you …”
Therefore! Because of all the things Paul had just explained in chapters 1-3—because we are “in Him”—saved, redeemed, sanctified, justified, blessed, set free—we should “walk worthy of the calling with which [we have been] called” (Eph. 4.1)!
Now in these last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul begins to tell us how those truths should be lived out. Chapter 4 says:
We should work to have unity and peace in all our relationships—in our family, in our church, in the workplace—wherever God places us (v. 3).
We should no longer be spiritual babies, tossed to and fro by every appealing sounding doctrine or new spiritual experience that comes along (v. 14). Babies need constant attention, are easily upset and will believe in every “Santa Claus” that comes along! We need to be rooted and grounded in the truth instead of wanting someone to make us feel good or think we need to be entertained all the time. We need to “grow up” (v. 15)!
We are to speak the truth in love (v. 15). That means three things should happen. We should speak—not clam up or give someone the silent treatment—ever! Nothing justifies that behavior in the life of a believer. Second we must “speak truth”—not half truths, not omissions of the truth, but truth! And third it must be spoken “in love”—not because we want to give them a “piece of our minds” or unload on someone!
We should not act like pagans who don’t know God (v. 17). That means we can’t justify our behavior because, “Everyone else is doing it,” or because, “This is not the first century!”
That, obviously, means we don’t commit fornication or adultery. But it also means we don’t flirt if we’re married and we don’t flirt with married men or women if we’re single.
Ladies, it means we don’t dress like the covers of most magazines or some actress (and husbands, don’t ask your wife to dress that way, unless it’s in the privacy of your home). It means our beauty is to be primarily inner and spiritual. It does not mean we have to dress like a grandmother or be drab or unattractive.
It also means we don’t live with someone if we are not married to him or her … period! Having him stay at your house 2 or 3 times a week, or even occasionally, while you’re not technically “living together” is no better. You’re only deceiving yourself.
We’re not to be lewd, unclean or greedy (v. 19). No dirty jokes or sexual innuendos. No lies because “how else are you going to get ahead in business.”
We are to put off those habits and lifestyles of the old sinful nature (v. 22).
We are to work at renewing our minds (v. 23)—spending time in His Word, reading good theologically sound books, memorizing Scripture and meditating on it—thinking about how it is to be lived out in our lives personally.
We are to put on new righteous habits and lifestyles (eph 4.24).
We are to stop lying, deceiving, omitting, hiding and coloring the truth; and become open and honest in all our relationships (v. 25).
We are not to sin in our anger, but deal with it quickly (v. 26). There are some things that should make us angry, but we cannot use that as an excuse to sin. We must deal with those sinful thoughts, feelings, and actions quickly (don’t let the sun go down on them). If we don’t, we’re giving the devil an open window to crawl—or charge—through (v. 27). Continue reading →
Verses 28- 29 “Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.”
God has complete and sovereign control of His world, including the elements. And He has the same control over the events of our lives. If you are in a storm today, first and foremost, decide to put your complete faith and trust in Him. If you are truly one of His children and you keep your eyes on Him, He has promised that he will never allow that storm to be greater than you can handle without sinning (1 Cor. 10.13).
But He also wants you to ask for His help. Verse 28 in our reading says “Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble …” James said we have not because we ask not (Jas. 4.1), and Jesus said in Luke 18.1, “…that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Call out to Him.
That 1 Corinthians 10 passage tells us that “… God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able …” That means if we choose to sin in response to our trial or storm, it’s just that—a choice to sin! Nothing—no one, no circumstance can force us to sin! We choose!
Chapter 26.1-4 is a picture of the church and its blessings. Verse 1 says we have “salvation for walls and bulwarks” and verse 3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
There is great protection in being a part of a good biblical church. The flip side of that is illustrated in a couple of New Testament passages.
Matthew 18.15-17 says:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
In other words, let him be considered as an unbeliever.
In 1 Corinthians 5.4-5 Paul told the believers concerning a man involved in sexual sin:
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
These two passages talk about putting someone outside the fellowship or membership of the church. This is sometimes called “church discipline” or excommunication. As you can see from the 1 Corinthians passage, Satan has much more freedom to attack someone when he or she is outside the fellowship. But the reverse is also true; when you become a member of a biblical church and submit yourself to its authority, you have the protection of that body like an umbrella over you. Continue reading →
If you have never memorized verse 13, I would encourage you to do so. This verse is one of God’s great promises and is filled with good news and hope!
“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.”
When we go through great difficulties, we often feel isolated and alone. But the temptations, tests and trials we undergo are “common to man.” Others have gone through them and have come out the other side and so can we.
God promises He will “make a way of escape.” Sometimes the way of escape is out of the trial, but more often it’s through the trial, yet we are “able to bear it” because of His grace.
And “… God is faithful …” No matter what we are going through God is faithful! He won’t leave us or forsake us, but will walk through it with us. He’s also faithful to filter the trial through His hands and not allow it to be more than we can handle without sinning … as long as we keep our eyes on Him and rely on His strength.
But that’s the key; we must keep our eyes on Him and rely on His power. And we must respond obediently. Many of our greatest difficulties arise because when we are in a test or trial, we respond sinfully and find we have only complicated the situation. We risk experiencing the consequences of our own sin and, often, find ourselves struggling with anger, anxiety, guilt, and depression.
Those emotions are like the warning lights on the dashboards of our cars telling us something is not right under the hood (in our hearts).
Instead, we should focus on James’ advice:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jas. 1.2-4)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t automatically want to be joyful when I’m in the midst of a test or trial! But this passage tells us we can be joyful if we remember that God is using the trial to mature us and make us more like His Son (Rom. 8.29).
James MacDonald in his book When Life Is Hard explains how God uses tests and trials to grow us and ultimately bless us. I have recommended it before, but I want to do so again. I have seen many lives impacted by the truths Dr. MacDonald shares in that study. And it’s not just for people who are going through severe trials, it’s for all of us as we face the ups and downs of life and struggle to understand what God is doing!
But there’s also bad news in 1 Corinthians 10.13. Since God has promised no trial will be too much for us to handle in a godly way, if we choose to sin in response (with anger, bitterness, worry, an unbiblical divorce, etc. …), it’s just that … a choice! No one and no circumstance can make us sin.
Let’s pray that God will give us His grace to choose to respond His way as we face the ups and downs and struggles of life (Heb. 4.16).
What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce? What about remarriage, singleness, and sex, both inside and outside of marriage? Does the Bible really address those subjects and, if so, does it have any relevance for today?
Also read about some of the amazing animals God has created: the horse with all his strength and fearlessness, the hawk, and the eagle. Then our reading in Job goes on to talk about a creature called behemoth and a huge sea creature called leviathan.
Finally, our Proverbs passage talks about the drunkard and how, even after the a hangover, he runs to look for his next drink. The world wants us to believe they can’t help it, that it’s a disease called alcoholism. What does the Bible say?
Paul has a great deal to say about marriage, divorce, and singleness in this chapter. In verses 1-9 he explains that sex within marriage is God’s only provision for sexual fulfillment. That has not changed in spite of what our culture tells us.
I know this is a huge challenge for some of you who are single and desire to be married. I want to encourage you that God has not forgotten you, that He is good, and that He will give you the grace to respond biblically to this challenge.
And to the married, verse 5 says:
5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
For those who are married, sex is to be continual. It is never to be withheld from one’s partner except by mutual agreement and then only for the purpose of prayer and fasting and only temporarily. In the past, this passage was most often applied to women, but as my husband and I counsel, more and more I hear of women whose husbands are not interested in sex.
It’s ironic that in a culture where sex is everywhere—on billboards, on TV, on movie screens, and on the street—this has not freed people to enjoy God’s gift of sexuality. Instead, it has done serious harm. The reasons are numerous, and if you’re struggling with this situation, I would encourage you to seek counseling for both you and your spouse if he or she is willing, or for yourself, if not.
The doctrine that these early apostles and elders were determined to clarify is the truth of “salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” It is a truth that is central to our faith and must be strongly guarded and taught. Even today, we must beware of those who would add works to salvation. While we are to do good works, they should flow out of a changed heart (Eph. 2.8-10). Good works have no power to save and can actually keep a person from seeing their need for a Savior.
“There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3.10).
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3.23).
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6.23).
Salvation is a gift, offered to those who believe because of His grace! Continue reading →
Have you ever wanted to go out into the mission field? or record a Christian hit song? or be a great Bible teacher? And instead, you find yourself cooking and cleaning and teaching Bible verses to preschoolers. What does God have to say about housewives and kingdom rewards?
Psalm 68 is a psalm of prayer, praise and thanksgiving to God for His care over His people and for giving them victory.
But before we pass by too quickly, there’s a sweet phrase tucked into verse 12, “and she who remains at home divides the spoil.”
What an encouragement this should be to you precious stay-at-home moms to know that God sees what you do as just as valuable and important to kingdom work as any other responsibility (more so, really, because you are raising the next generation for God). It’s also a reminder that you will share in kingdom rewards just as fully!
In chapter 1 King David is dying. (Those of us who are married and getting older can be thankful for electric blankets, none of that “virgin heating” for our husbands! You’ll just have to read the passage!) Continue reading →
We see David’s trust in the sovereignty of God in these two chapters. The broken relationship between David and his son Absalom has lead to bitterness and now rebellion on Absalom’s part. He has been secretly plotting to overthrow his father by deceiving the people. He is now on his way to take Jerusalem.
David gets word and is fleeing the city along with his household and hundreds of his men. When Zadok the Priest joins him, David says:
“Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place. But if He says thus. “I have no delight in you,” here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him'” (15.26).
Then in chapter 16 Shimei one of Saul’s descendants follows David and his men cursing and throwing stones at him. Abishai, one of his generals, offers to take off Shimei’s head! David responds by saying:
“So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day.”
Responding to our critics
This is a great example of how we should respond to criticism in our lives. Whether or not the criticism is justified, God has allowed it for some purpose. If it’s unfair or ill-intended, we should allow God to deal with it. Continue reading →