“Reality … Before ‘Reality TV'” January 15

 

Reality ... Before "Reality TV" - I would be the first to admit that reality TV is, well, ... real! But when we read some of the stories in the Bible, we've got to admit that nothing much has changed when it comes to human nature. If we were watching a dramatized version of today's reading what might it sound like? Check out today's post to see. But God didn't include these stories just for entertainment value. They are for our benefit, so we might be encouraged and have hope to persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or we don't understand the why's.I would be the first to admit that reality TV is, well, … real!

But when we read some of the stories in the Bible, we’ve got to admit that nothing much has changed when it comes to human nature. If we were watching a dramatized version of today’s reading what might it sound like? Check out today’s post to see.

But God didn’t include these stories just for entertainment value. They are for our benefit, so we might be encouraged and have hope to persevere when things are difficult or seem unfair or we don’t understand the why’s.

How might God be using the things we least want to remember about our past or we least want to embrace in our present circumstances in the most miraculous ways? It might be our family, how we’ve been sinned against, or something we did or didn’t do.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 29 & 30
Psalm 8.1-5
Proverbs 3.13-18
Matthew 10.21-42

 

Reality … Before “Reality TV”

 

Genesis 29 & 30:

Love, Deceit, & God’s Plans

 

The Bible is full of stories about love, sex, rejection, envy, jealousy, fidelity, adultery, immorality, scheming, deceit, greed, thievery, contention, even murder (and that’s the short list)!

Reality TV has nothing on our spiritual ancestors, or us, for that matter!

If it wasn’t for the love and mercy and patience of God, He might have given up on the human race a long time ago. Instead, He has carefully carried out the plan He has had since before the beginning of time—to send His Son to rescue us from ourselves.

 

Leah, Rachel & Their Manipulative, Deceitful Father

 

In chapter 29 Jacob has been working for his Uncle Laban for seven years for the right to marry his daughter, Rachel. But Rachel has an older sister, Leah, who is still unmarried.

Imagine for a minute that you are Leah. Apparently, she wasn’t considered beautiful in that culture. Verse 17 says her eyes were “delicate.” The NASB says they were weak.

“And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”

The word translated “delicate” or “weak” probably meant pale and may have been considered a blemish. But the comparison to Rachel says it all, “… but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”

The desire to look beautiful is nothing new. Even the serving women in Moses day had bronze mirrors (Ex. 38.8). Leah probably felt the sting of comparison and the desire to have someone love her like Jacob loved her sister.

I wonder how she felt as Rachel’s wedding date neared, being the older sister and still unmarried. Now imagine: the wedding party is going on, the wine is flowing, people are singing and dancing.

And her father comes to her with a plan.

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (29.22-23).

As we’ll see in the next few verses, Jacob didn’t have a clue who was waiting in the marriage bed.

Imagine how that conversation between Leah and her father might have gone: Continue reading

“Consequences of Favoritism & Deception” January 14

 

Consequences of Favoritism & Deception - Job said that no plan or purpose of God's can be thwarted (Job. 42.2), but He often has to allow the consequences of our sin and self-effort to take effect before we're ready to be used or to receive the blessing without messing it up. Jacob and Rebekah, it seems, had to learn this lesson the hard way. All this should be both a warning and a great encouragement to us: a warning of the consequences of deception, controlling behavior, and selfishness and an encouragement that God can and will use us, in spite of our past mistakes, if we will repent and turn to Him.Job said that no plan or purpose of God’s can be thwarted (Job. 42.2), but He often has to allow the consequences of our sin and self-effort to take effect before we’re ready to be used or to receive the blessing without messing it up. Jacob and Rebekah, it seems, had to learn this lesson the hard way.

All this should be both a warning and a great encouragement to us: a warning of the consequences of deception, controlling behavior, and selfishness and an encouragement that God can and will use us, in spite of our past mistakes, if we will repent and turn to Him.

Also read about the difference between “Righteous Anger & Sinful Anger,” “The Chastening of the Lord,” and the importance of “Defending the Faith in Love.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 27 & 28
Psalm 7.9-17
Proverbs 3.11-12
Matthew 10.1-20

 

The Consequences of Favoritism & Deception

 

Genesis 27 & Genesis 28:

Consequences & God’s Sovereignty

 

Isaac was now 137 years old, blind, and facing his own mortality. Perhaps he was sick since both Jacob and Esau expected him to die soon (27.41). As the story continues we will see that he actually lives forty-three years longer. By the way, Jacob and Esau were not exactly kids either. They were 77 years old!

Isaac planned to give a final blessing to Esau, his favored son, in opposition to God’s declared will (Gen. 25.23). But first he asked him to bring him a meal of fresh game. Instead, Rebekah convinced Jacob, her favorite, to deceive his father into pronouncing the blessing over him.

When the scandal of Jacob’s deception was revealed, it says, “Isaac trembled exceedingly,” perhaps over what Jacob had done or perhaps at the realization that he had favored his rebellious son in spite of what God had revealed to Rebekah before the twins were born.

Esau was already living up to God’s prophecy. He had married two Hittite women, clearly in violation of Abraham’s guidelines (Gen. 24.3). Rebekah and Isaac must have understood all this because 26.35 says his wives were “a grief of mind” to his parents.

And don’t forget the selfish, “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now” attitude that had already cost Esau his birthright as the elder son.

Though Jacob’s behavior was completely wrong (and the fact that his mother suggested it, was no excuse), God, in His sovereignty, used it to bring about His desired result—not because of their sinful behavior, but again, in spite of it.

And Rebekah! Wouldn’t you just love to have a mother who gives this kind of advice! Continue reading

“Are you hiding who you are?” January 12

 

Are you hiding who you are? - In today's reading, one young woman traveled hundreds of miles on camel back to meet her future husband. He must have been waiting expectantly to see her, but as they approached, she covered herself with a veil. Today, if we wear veils at all, it's part of a traditional wedding outfit or a fashion statement, but that doesn't mean we aren't still hiding who we really are. It may be in a dating relationship or a social situation or in the business world.What if, as a young woman, someone showed up and said, “God wants you to go to another country to marry a man you’ve never met—and by the way—he’s your long lost cousin!”

In Biblical times, people didn’t just meet, date, fall in love, and decide to get married. Even if there was “love at first sight,” marriage still had to be arranged with parents or guardians.

In today’s reading, one young woman traveled hundreds of miles on camel back to meet her future husband. He must have been waiting expectantly to see her, but as they approached, she covered herself with a veil.

Today, if we wear veils at all, it’s part of a traditional wedding outfit or a fashion statement, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still hiding who we really are. It may be in a dating relationship or a social situation or in the business world.

Also, read about how God can keep us “Safe in Persecution,” and how He wants us to “Depart from Evil,” and to “Walk in the Light.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 23 & 24
Psalm 7.1-5
Proverbs 3.7-8
Matthew 9.1-17

 

Are you hiding who you are?

 

Genesis 23 & Genesis 24:

Hiding Who We Are

 

Sometimes as we read about the unusual customs in the Bible, it’s difficult to see the connection to us in our time. Like, “Put you hand under my thigh …” (in v. 24 as a way of swearing an oath)—aren’t you glad men shake hands these days! And what if, as a young woman, someone showed up and said, “God wants you to go to another country to marry a man you’ve never met—and by the way—he’s your long lost cousin!”

Many marriages were arranged in Biblical times. People didn’t just meet, date, fall in love, decide to get married, and live happily ever after. Even if they did “fall in love” which seems to happen with Jacob and Rachel a few chapters from now, things still had to be arranged with the potential bride’s family. In Jacob’s case that arrangement took fourteen years.

And what about Isaac? He’s a grown man by now, yet his father sent his servant to find him a bride. And it wasn’t that he fell instantly in love when he saw her, as if God was some supernatural cupid. When Rebekah realized it was Isaac coming to meet her, Continue reading

“The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!” November 28

 

The Fullness of Scripture ... Wade In! - The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to "wade in" so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word. Also read about "The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution" and "The Futility of Arguing with a Fool."The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to “wade in” so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word.

Also read about “The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution” and “The Futility of Arguing with a Fool.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 47 & 48
Psalm 135.8-14
Proverbs 29.9
1 Peter 4.1-19

 

The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!

 

Ezekiel 47 & 48:

Christ, the Gospel & Living Water

 

These two chapters close out the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 47 describes a river flowing out of the temple. Symbolically the Temple is Christ and the river is the Gospel. The Living Water flows from Him and blesses everything it touches.

In the deepness of the water we see the fullness of Scripture. While in some places it’s ankle deep, in other places knee deep, and in other places even deeper, God wants us to wade in.

As Paul told Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2.15).

The fact that we won’t understand everything about God in this life (2 Pet. 3.14-16), is all the more reason to worship Him. A god we could understand fully wouldn’t be God at all!

Why not “wade in” to Scripture in the coming year by signing up for the “BIBLE IN A YEAR” devotionals?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 135.8-14:

No Power of Hell or Earth …

 

In this psalm of praise to God for creation and redemption it says:

He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders, defeated many nations, slew mighty kings and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage to Israel His people. Verses 13-14: 

Continue reading

“What do you crave?” November 26

 

What do you crave?

What do you crave? How does what you crave affect your relationship with God and your spiritual growth?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 43 & 44
Psalm 134.1-3
Proverbs 29.7
1 Peter 2.1-25

 

What do you crave?

 

1 Peter 2.1-25:

As Newborn Babes …

 

milkVerse 2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

Anyone who has been around a newborn baby knows they crave milk and will let you know when they want more! John MacArthur (MacArthur Daily Bible) says, “Spiritual growth is always marked by a craving for and a delight in God’s Word.”

A baby who had no appetite for milk and refused to eat would soon be malnourished, even sick and we can’t grow spiritually without a steady intake of God’s Word. Neither will we grow in the quality of our relationship with God without getting to know Him, His attributes, His promises, and learning to recognize His voice.

Do you “delight” in God’s Word? Do you crave it like a baby craves milk? If not, pray and ask God to give you a hunger for His Word.

 

Responding to Persecution in an Ungodly Society

 

persecution prayerPeter was writing to believers who were suffering intense persecution in a very ungodly society! He was teaching them how to respond to persecution, mistreatment and the ungodliness of others.

He didn’t say, “Get mad, gossip, or rebel.” Neither did he say, “Act like everyone else” or “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Instead he said in chapter 2:

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man …

We’re to submit … even to those who are harsh (v. 18):  Continue reading

“Are you ‘profiting’ from the Bible?” November 25

 

Are you "profiting" from the Bible?

What does Matthew Henry mean when he talks about “profiting from the Bible”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 41 & 42
Psalm 133.1-3
Proverbs 29.6
1 Peter 1.1-25

 

Are you profiting from the Bible?

 

Ezekiel 41 & 42:

Profiting from the Bible

 

In chapter 40, Ezekiel said:

¹ In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city.

From outside the city, God took him to the outside of the temple and into the courts (Ezek 40.6-49) and then into the temple itself (Ezek. 41).

Matthew Henry in his Complete Commentary on the Bible, says about chapter 41, “After the prophet had observed the courts, he was brought to the temple. If we attend to instructions in the plainer parts of religion, and profit by them, we shall be led further into an acquaintance with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

My paraphrase—if we are faithful to learn the basics of the Christian faith, God will take us deeper into the wonders of His Word.

But notice that second sentence in Henry’s comment, “If we attend to instruction … and profit by them …” If we are not applying what we already know, it is unlikely we will grow and understand more!

The writer of Hebrews said it this way:  Continue reading

“Do not be afraid of them!” November 6

 

Do not be afraid of them! - Ezekiel was called to speak truth to a heart-hearted and rebellious people, but God gave him the strength he needed and told him, "Do not be afraid of them!" We live in a time when people have similar attitudes and responses to truth. Sometimes we suffer persecution, not just for what we say or do, but for who we are. Darkness hates the light. Sometimes our persecutors can be people close to us, even our own family members. What can we learn from Jesus about persecution? And what did Peter, who once denied his Lord, learn that can help us trust God and have the strength to do?Ezekiel was called to speak truth to a hard-hearted and rebellious people, but God gave him the strength he needed and told him, “Do not be afraid of them!”

We live in a time when people have similar attitudes and responses to truth. Sometimes we suffer persecution, not just for what we say or do, but for who we are. Darkness hates the light. Sometimes our persecutors can be people close to us, even our own family members.

What can we learn from Jesus about persecution? And what did Peter, who once denied his Lord, learn that can help us trust God and have the strength to do?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 3 & 4
Psalm 119.161-168
Proverbs 28.13
Hebrews 2.1-18

 

Do not be afraid of them!

 

Ezekiel 3 & 4:

Strength for the Job

Chapter 3.8-9:

8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. 9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.

Ezekiel had a difficult job. Even after their years of rebellion had taken them into captivity, the people had not softened their hearts or turned back to God. Instead, they had become more rebellious.

We live in a society today where many people have similar attitudes.

It can be very difficult to speak the truth when we’re made to look unloving or judgmental. But since God has called us to live at this time in history, we can take heart in the fact that God will give us the strength and enable us to be the light wherever and in whatever circumstances He has placed us!

Like Ezekiel, He will make our faces and our foreheads as strong and hard as necessary. That does not mean we are to harden our hearts or become argumentative or angry, rather we are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” and to trust Him to give us the inner strength and the determination to be light in a dark world as we “hold fast the Word of life” (Phil. 2.15-16).

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 119.161-168:

Persecuted without a Cause

finger-pointingVerse 161 says,

“Princes persecute me without a cause but my heart stands in awe of Your word.”

Sometimes it’s not just hard to speak truth to a rebellious generation, but we can suffer various forms of persecution.

The “princes” may be members of our own family or others we love and care about or they may be people in places of authority. We shouldn’t be surprised by persecution. Jesus warned us to expect it:  Continue reading

“Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” + LINKUP

 

Foxe's Book of MartyrsWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by by John Foxe, editied by Harold J. Chadwick.

John Foxe was a 16th century English historian best known for writing Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. His book gives a detailed account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history.

His book is about courageous men, women and children who have been tortured and killed because of their confessions of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But, even more, it’s a book about God’s amazing grace that enabled them to endure persecutions and often horrible deaths.

 

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has been edited and updated many times since John Foxe wrote the first volume in English in 1563 under the title, Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, but it became known almost immediately as the Book of Martyrs.

At the time it was written many of the events the author describes were still taking place and it was written more like a reporter would write today. Foxe probably witnessed many of the events or knew people who did. Other stories were sent to him by those who had suffered or knew people who had.

Editor, Harold Chadwick writes:

Without question the book began in Foxe’s mind when he was at Magdalen College at Oxford University, where he held a fellowship for seven years. He had first been sent by his parents to Brasenose College at the University when he was sixteen. During that time Reformation doctrines were strong throughout Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and Foxe was highly influenced by them. He began intensive study of the Scriptures and began to question the doctrines and practices of the Roman church. Before long he was an affirmed Protestant and nothing ever turned him from that path. This so changed his conduct that before long suspicions began to arise about his allegiance to the Church of Rome. Then it was reported that Foxe was taking solitary walks in the evening and could be heard sobbing and pouring out prayers to God. When questioned about this practice, he openly stated his new religious opinions, and was almost immediately expelled from the college as a confirmed heretic.

Sometime later he married Agnes Randell, a fellow believer, and stayed for a time with her parents.

By this means and others, Foxe kept himself concealed for some time from the papist inquisitors. This continued from the reign of King Henry VIII, through the open and peaceful days of Edward VI, and into the reign of Queen Mary I, who brought back into England all of the Roman Catholic doctrines and the pope’s power. Knowing then what was to happen, Foxe and his family left England and traveled first to Strasbourg, France, then to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Basel, Switzerland. There he found a number of English refugees who had fled England to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors, and there began work on his now famous book.

Foxe’s history of the martyrs starts with the first century martyrs, including Jesus Himself and Stephen who was martyred about 8 years after the crucifixion.  Continue reading