“4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal” February 27

 

4 Way to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal - How's your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who's living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

How’s your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who’s living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we would come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

 

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 23 & 24
Psalm 28.1-5
Proverbs 10.17-18
Mark 6.1-29

 

4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Leviticus 23 & 24:

 

Does He really “occupy” your life?

 

As we continue reading through the book of Leviticus, I’m reminded that not only is “all Scripture” profitable to our everyday lives (1 Tim. 3.16-17), but we can begin reading anywhere and glean great, practical truths.

Leviticus 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us.

That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable, to be a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!

Here in chapter 23, notice the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal.

Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Old Testament feasts and sacrifices, in part, reminded them that the Creator God wanted to dwell with them.

That word “dwell” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old.”

His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.

The word “occupy” stood out to me. Does He really “occupy” your life? Have you allowed him to take over the whole mansion or is He expected to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you’d say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”

 

Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in you?

And how does His residence look to others? Real estate agents talk about curb appeal, how a home (or mansion) looks from the street. How do you look to others? How is your spiritual curb appeal? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of God?

God wants a relationship with His people. He wants to live in us and through us so we can be salt and light to the world. What a privilege and what a responsibility! If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we came up short, how can we change that? Continue reading

“Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride” February 5

 

Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride - In Matthew 23, Jesus made some unusual statements: "Do not call anyone on earth your father ..." "... he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it." "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" In another passage, He said, "Do not judge, lest you be judged." So, are titles wrong? What about oaths? Should we strengthen our commitments by swearing by things bigger than ourselves? And what did Jesus mean when He said, "Do not judge ...?"In Matthew 23, Jesus made some unusual statements: “Do not call anyone on earth your father …” “… he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.” “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” In another passage, He said, “Do not judge, lest you be judged.”

So, are titles wrong? What about oaths? Should we strengthen our commitments by swearing by things bigger than ourselves? And what did Jesus mean when He said, “Do not judge …?”

And in our Old Testament reading, why would God lay out such an elaborate systems of laws and regulations? Did those laws limit or enhance freedom? Do they have any connection to our laws today?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 21 & 22
Psalm 18.46-50
Proverbs 6.26-29
Matthew 23.1-22

 

Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride

 

Matthew 23:1-22

Titles & Authority

 

Sometimes verses must be studied in the light of other verses and passages in the Bible. If we take one or two verses and isolate them, we can easily read more into them or something different from what was intended. Also, studying the texts in their original languages can help our understanding. That doesn’t mean that we must be Greek or Hebrew scholars. We are blessed to live in a time when there are many excellent and understandable references and commentaries written by people who have studied the texts carefully and prayerfully.

Verses 8-10, for instance, where Jesus said:

“… do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”

Jesus is not condemning titles. The Apostle Paul called himself a “father” to the Corinthians. And in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, he says:

“He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Rather Jesus was condemning the religious leaders who set themselves up as the final authority on spiritual matters as if they were the source of the truth. God through His Word must always be our source of truth. No man or woman is infallible, only God.  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

“Struggling to Trust God?” November 29

 

Struggling to Trust God? - Is there some area of life where you're struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? Do you wonder, "Why me?"Is there some area of life where you’re struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? Do you wonder, “Why me?”

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 1 & 2
Psalm 135.15-21
Proverbs 29.10
1 Peter 5.1-14

 

We’ve finished another O.T. book (Ezekiel) and will finish 1 Peter today. We’re closing in on the end of the year! What has God shown you as you’re read through the Word? I’d love to get your input.

 

Struggling to Trust God?

 

Daniel 1 & 2:

When Struggling to Trust God

 

Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, so this book backs up to the beginning of the Babylonian conquest when Daniel was kidnapped and taken to Babylon along with other intelligent, handsome young men. They were to be brain-washed through education and exposure to rich-living so they would be useful to the leadership in Babylon, possibly to help with the other Jews who would later be brought to Babylon in larger numbers.

Instead, because of his character, God would use him to influence two pagan kingdoms. Just as He did with Joseph, God would use Daniel’s personal circumstances to alter the course of history. And in it all, Daniel gave glory to God (2.28-30).

Daniel would face the temptation to compromise his beliefs (1.5-8, 6.6-7) and the threat of death (2.12-13, 6.6-7). Yet he stayed faithful to God. He didn’t rely on his own devices, but prayed continually for God’s wisdom and help (6.10).

What a great example of God using “all things,” even an unsaved king and unfair, undeserved circumstances, for good (Rom. 8.28).

whispering gossipBut what about your life and your difficulties? Has someone sinned against you in grievous ways? Are you struggling to trust God in your life?

If you’re a believer, God’s promises are true for you, too! He has not allowed anything in your life that He cannot use for your good and His glory. Others may have meant it for evil, but God means it for good (Gen. 50.20).

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 135.15-21:

God & God Alone

 

Daniel understood what the psalmist said in these verses, that heathen gods have no power—that God and God alone is to be praised, worshiped and feared.  Continue reading

“Where is God When Life is Hard?” November 18

 

When Life is Hard - Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 27 & 28
Psalm 129.1-4
Proverbs 28.26
Hebrews 12.1-29

 

When Life is Hard

 

Hebrews 12.1-29:

God Our Perfect Parent

 

When Life Is Hard

This chapter talks about the discipline or the chastening of the Lord. When we go through difficult times, the devil tempts us to believe that it’s because God doesn’t love us or because we aren’t really believers or that we must have done something so horrible that He will no longer help us.

But in reality, the opposite is true. This chapter clearly tells us that “whom the Lord loves He chastens.” So whether we are chastened because of unrepentant sin, pruned so that we will bear more fruit (Jn. 15), or suffering the consequences of our own choices (Gal. 6.7-9), it is proof that God loves us.

As Psalm 119.71 says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” and verse 75 adds, “in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

Pastor James MacDonald has done a wonderful, life-changing series based on Hebrews 12.5-17 entitled When Life Is Hard. In it he explains the importance of understanding how God as the Perfect Parent lovingly disciplines His children, how He does it because He loves us, and how He uses it for our good.

He also outlines the dangerous process that can happen to someone who rejects God’s discipline. That person can become discouraged and then bitter. That bitterness can defile everything and everyone around it. And, if those attitudes are not dealt with, it can lead to profane living and, finally, rejection.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 27 & 28:

Pride & Humility

 

God continues to speak through the prophet, this time to Tyre, a coastal city in modern Lebanon famous for its trade and goods. In 28.11-17 he speaks to the King of Tyre. This passage and others in the Bible, especially in the prophetic books and the Psalms, have duel meanings. While it is addressed to the historical king and city, it also speaks of Satan who was the power behind the King of Tyre.  Continue reading

December 11 “God’s grace & the Tribulation”

Cross silhouette and the holy blue skyEven though God’s grace, as well as, God’s judgment will be demonstrated everywhere during the Tribulation, many will still reject the truth.

Today’s Readings:
Hosea 13 & 14
Psalm 140.1-5
Proverbs 29.23
Revelation 1.1-20

 

Hosea 13 & 14:

A stone of stumbling

The book of Hosea ends with these words:

“For the ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

1 Peter 2.7-8 says, “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”

In today’s world you can talk about God as long as you leave it open-ended—“god as you understand him” some say. But when you talk about Jesus as “the Way and the only Way” (Jn. 14.6), you’ll be labeled narrow-minded and accused of trying to impose your religion on everyone else. He is “precious” to those who believe and a “rock of offense” to those who reject Him.

 

Hand holding a stone. throwing rocksPsalm 140.1-5:

Sticks & stones

Verse 3, “They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; the poison of asps is under their lips.”

That childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you,” is a lie. Words hurt and can continue to hurt for a lifetime unless we nail them to the cross and allow them to stay there. We do that by meditating on God’s forgiveness toward us and, with God’s help, choosing to extend that forgiveness to the one who hurt us. Then we must, often repeatedly, replace those hurtful words in our hearts and minds with God’s truth.

Continue reading

November 29 “Are you struggling to trust God?”

worry anxiety questioning trusting GodIs there some area of life where you are struggling to trust God? Do you find yourself impatient because God has failed to answer your prayer or change your circumstances? What should your heart attitude be in this season?

 

Today’s Readings:
Daniel 1 & 2
Psalm 135.15-21
Proverbs 29.10
1 Peter 5.1-14

We’ve finished another O.T. book (Ezekiel) and will finish 1 Peter today. We’re closing in on the end of the year! What has God shown you as you’re read through the Word? I’d love to get your input.

 

Daniel 1 & 2:

God uses all things for good

Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, so this book backs up to the beginning of the Babylonian conquest when Daniel was kidnapped and taken to Babylon along with other intelligent, handsome young men. They were to be brain-washed through education and exposure to rich-living so they would be useful to the leadership in Babylon, possibly to help with the other Jews who would later be brought to Babylon in larger numbers.

Because of his character, he would instead be used by God in a great way to influence two pagan kingdoms. What a great example of God using “all things,” even an unsaved king and unfair, undeserved circumstances, for good (Rom. 8.28).

In chapter 2 God revealed to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and gave him the interpretation. Just as He did with Joseph, God was setting the stage to use Daniel’s personal circumstances to alter the course of history. And in it all, Daniel gave glory to God (vv. 28-30).

But what about your life and your difficulties? Has someone sinned against you in grievous ways? If you are a believer, God’s promises are true for you, too! He has not allowed anything in your life that He cannot use for your good and His glory. Others may have meant it for evil, but God means it for good (Gen. 50.20).

Continue reading

November 22 “Your words: blessing or cursing?”

scoldingIf someone had to describe what comes out of your mouth in one word, would it be blessing or cursing?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 35 & 36
Psalm 131.1-3
Proverbs 29.2-3
James 3.1-18

 

Ezekiel 35 & 36:

A picture of the New Covenant

Chapter 36.24-27 is a beautiful picture of the new covenant:

24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

This will be fulfilled for the Nation of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom, but we already enjoy much of these same blessings with the new birth and its new covenant.

 

Psalm 131.1-3:

Grace for the humble

Verse 1, “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.”

Humility is one of the characteristics that should characterize a believer. God says He resists the proud (Jas. 4.6) and that a proud look is one of the things He hates (Prov. 6.16-17), but He gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4.6).

Let’s pray that we would recognize pride in our lives and learn to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. Continue reading

November 18 “Does God still love us when life gets hard?”

problems depressed sorrowWhen life gets hard, it’s easy to believe God doesn’t love us. But what is God doing during those times and is there danger in rejecting His discipline?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 27 & 28
Psalm 129.1-4
Proverbs 28.26
Hebrews 12.1-29

Ezekiel 27 & 28:

Pride & humility

God continues to speak through the prophet, this time to Tyre, a coastal city in modern Lebanon famous for its trade and goods. In 28.11-17 he speaks to the King of Tyre. This passage and others in the Bible, especially in the prophetic books and the Psalms, have duel meanings. While it is addressed to the historical king and city, it also speaks of Satan who was the power behind the King of Tyre.

In both cases God addressed their pride and arrogance. It was pride that caused Satan to exalt himself above God and cost him his place in the heavenly kingdom.

Stuart Scott in his little book From Pride to Humility, says, “Pride is the epidemic vice. It is everywhere and manifests itself in many ways. As much as we may hate to admit it, we all have pride, each and every one of us. The question is not, ‘Do I have it?’ but, ‘Where is it?’ and ‘How much of it do I have?'”

Pride is the enemy of humility.

Scott says, “… humility is the one character quality that will enable us to be all Christ wants us to be. We cannot come to God without it. We cannot love God supremely without it. We cannot be an effective witness for Christ without it. We cannot love and serve others without it. We cannot lead in a godly way without it. We cannot communicate properly without it. We cannot resolve conflict without it. We cannot deal with the sin of others rightly without it. We especially cannot resist sin without it.”

He goes on to list 30 manifestations of pride (what he calls, “just a sample list”).

Let’s pray that we allow God to root out pride in our lives and help us to grow in humility.

How has God revealed pride in your life? Continue reading

August 25 “The Bible on marriage and divorce” & LINKUP

divorce460[1]

What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce? What about remarriage? And is any of it relevant for today?

Today’s Readings:
Job 41 & 42
Psalm 101.5-8
Proverbs 23.31-35
1 Corinthians 7.1-19

Job 41 & 42:

Behemoth, leviathan & their creator

In chapter 41 God continues to challenge Job with just Who He really is! He uses creation and His sovereign control of every aspect of the universe to illustrate this truth.

I was struck with the incredible variation in all the species that God created. A few chapters ago we read about the ostrich and what a magnificent bird she is, but it says, “God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding …”

Then we read about the horse and his power, how he is not afraid in battle, and of his pure strength. The passage goes on to talk about the uniqueness of the hawk and the eagle and the behemoth. Now in chapter 41, God describes a huge sea creature called leviathan. Verses 9-10 say, “Indeed, any hope of overcoming him is false; shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up.”

Verse 10 goes on, “Who then is able to stand against Me?” If the creatures God created are incredible, what should that tell us about the One who created them?

Job, too, finally gets it! He responds with humility and repentance and God later restores to him all that he had and more. Continue reading