“Are You Whining or Shining?” September 13

 

Are You Whining or Shining?

We’re called to be different! But when it comes to how you respond to circumstances, tests, trials, the state of our nation, economy or politics … are you whining or shining? And why does it matter?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 17 & 18
Psalm 106.32-39
Proverbs 25.11-12
2 Corinthians 5.1-21

 

Are You Whining or Shining?

 

Isaiah 17 & 18:

A Remnant … Whining or Shining?

 

In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (Is. 18.6).

As we see what’s happening here in our nation, we cannot give up or lose hope. We must realize that it’s our calling to be part of that faithful remnant. We are to be salt and light.

Philippians 2.14-15 says we are to:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that [we] may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (emp. added).

How’s your light? Is it bright and clear? Is it dim and hidden by junk (sin or the cares of this world)? Or do you just whine and complain like everyone else?

If we are going to give hope to a lost and dying world, even in the midst of discouraging times and setbacks, we must point to the only source of real hope. Our hope cannot be in the government, the hope that our nation will wake up and turn back to God, or any person or event.

Our hope must be in all the truths and promises of Scripture: God’s free offer of salvation to those who will believe, His divine supports here and now to those who belong to Him, the reality of heaven and the promise of eternal rewards. And while our saltiness may sting at times, it must be balanced with a brightness that will cause others to want what we have.

 

Are You Whining or Shining? - We’re called to be different! But when it comes to how you respond to circumstances, tests, trials, the state of our nation, economy or politics … are you whining or shining? And why does it matter?


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 106.32-39:

Holding Out the Light, Not Taking Part in the Darkness

 

As the psalmist continues to recount the history of the Israelites, he includes these verses about their involvement with pagan religions, even taking part in the most detestable practices.

Verses 35-38:

35 But they mingled with the Gentiles
And learned their works;
36 They served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
37 They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
38 And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.

In 2 Corinthians 6.14-17 Paul said:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …

17 Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord …”

Because we have not obeyed that command, like the ancient Israelites of Isaiah’s time, we are often more a part of our culture then we are separate from it. We are so afraid of being called “intolerant” or of being accused of being narrow minded or ignorant that we have accepted the world’s philosophy on many things or at least been intimidated into silence while unborn babies are being killed, history is rewritten, and truth becomes relative.  Continue reading

“Blending In & Hiding Out” May 3

 

Blending In & Hiding Out - God has always desired for His people to be set apart, holy, different from the world around us - so we can manifest His holiness. Instead, we like to blend in and hide out. God has always desired for His people to be set apart, holy, different from the world around us – so we can manifest His holiness. Instead, we like blending in and hiding out.

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 8 & 9
Psalm 55.9-15
Proverbs 15.15-17
Luke 22.1-23

 

Blending In & Hiding Out

 

1 Samuel 8 & 9:

Is There Any Difference?

 

God has always desired for His people to be set apart, holy, different from the world around us – to manifest His holiness.

Matthew 5.16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

That light in us is supposed to shine and in so doing bring God glory. Peter reminded us to:

“Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1.16).

As we live in “grace obedience” (understanding that we cannot live holy lives without the help of the Holy Spirit, relying on Him, repenting and calling on His mercy when we fail), we bring Him glory. And that difference, that light, will draw others to Christ.

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (Jn. 12.32).

But, like the people of Israel in asking for a king (1 Sam. 8.4), we often prefer to blend in, to be closet Christians, to act much like the world around us. Our children, too, complain that it’s unfair they can’t dress and act like the rest of the world. I wonder if we have failed to instill the importance of their calling in them because we don’t always believe and live it ourselves.

Let’s pray that we would truly let our light so shine before men that they would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Let’s pray that when their lives are falling apart, they would see something different in us and be drawn to it. And when they ask, we would “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet. 3.15).

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 55.9-15:

Betrayed by a Friend

 

David had been betrayed. It wasn’t an enemy who had betrayed him, but someone he considered a close friend. Who among us hasn’t felt that disappointment, hurt, even anger over some betrayal? Yet …

Ephesians 4.26 says, “Be angry, and do not sin,” and verses 31 & 32 say, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Romans 12.21 raises the bar even higher:  Continue reading

“On ‘Forcing’ Religion on Your Children” April 18

 

On "Forcing" Religion on Your Children - Have you ever said, "I don't want to force my religion on my children. I'm just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves"? Today's reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting. But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.

But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.

So how can we find the right balance?

 

Today’s Readings:
Judges 1 & 2
Psalm 48.1-8
Proverbs 14.15-17
Luke 14.1-24

 

A Note of Encouragement

 

If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.

Even if this is your first day visiting this blog or you just visit occasionally, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!

 

On “Forcing” Religion on Your Children

 

Judges 1 & 2:

A Generation Who Did Not Know the Lord

 

As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.

In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

 

Parental Responsibility

 

More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard well-meaning parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.

On the other side of the equation, we need to be careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on some legalistic standard that drives your children away from God.

Continue reading

“Is the old man or woman still hanging around?” April 12

 

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?

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 13 & 14
Psalm 44.20-26
Proverbs 14.3
Luke 11.1-28

 

Is the Old Man Still Hanging Around?

 

Joshua 13 & 14:

Pockets of Resistance & the Old Man

 

Verse 14.15b, “Then the land had rest from war.”

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).

gossipMaybe 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

“Risky Faith” April 8

 

Risky Faith - Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won't be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.

 

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

 

Risky Faith

 

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.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.

 

Their Parents Disobedience

 

The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.

It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist.  While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.

 

Risky Faith

 

God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.

When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.

Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.

It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.

tree rootsSometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).

But, as believers, we shouldn’t go looking for persecution. We need to be wise and prayerful. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, says:  Continue reading

“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

“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