“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

“3 Reasons the World Hates Us” September 10

 

Why the world hates us?Christians, throughout the centuries, have been persecuted, rejected and martyred for their faith. What are some of the reasons why the world hates us? Paul Nyquist in his book Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture lists 3 reasons.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 11 & 12
Psalm 106.6-18
Proverbs 25.3-5
2 Corinthians 2.1-17

 

3 Reasons the World Hates Us

 

2 Corinthians 2.1-17:

Why the World Hates Us

 

Verses 14-16a:

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.

As Christians, we represent Christ to a dying world. For those who respond to the Gospel in saving faith leading to a changed life, we are “the aroma of life leading to [eternal] life” (emphasis added).To those who reject Christ we are the “aroma of death” because instead of responding to the truth and light we represent with repentance, they respond in rejection and anger. This should help us understand why even those we care about can become so hostile when we commit our lives to Christ and begin to share what He’s doing in our lives.

Christians, throughout the centuries, have been persecuted, rejected and martyred for their faith. As Americans we have been somewhat insulated from that truth, but as I discussed yesterday the culture we live in is changing rapidly. More and more believers are experiencing job losses, harassment, persecution and even arrest for standing on biblical principles.

Paul Nyquist in his book Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture says:

One of the more difficult truths for us to grasp is that the world hates us. The world doesn’t tolerate us— even though toleration is a supposed value of our society. It doesn’t like us. No, it hates us. Jesus makes this plain in John 15:18– 27.

He goes on to say:

As relational creatures, that truth can gnaw at us. We crave acceptance. We long to be loved. We desire to be esteemed, valued, and respected. We can yearn for those things from the world. But Jesus says that acceptance will never happen. The world doesn’t love us. The world doesn’t even like us. The world hates us.

Jesus lists three reasons the world hates us in John 15. Nyquist explains them this way:  Continue reading

“Are you preparing to live in a hostile culture?” September 9

 

red x bible

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. Violence, from outside and inside our nation, is almost commonplace. How are you preparing to live in a dangerous and hostile culture?

 

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

 

Are you preparing to live in a hostile culture?

 

2 Corinthians 1.1-24:

Comfort in Tribulation

 

Verses 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

God “comforts us in all our tribulation”! What a great promise, especially today as we face an increasingly hostile culture and an increasingly dangerous world. Not only does He comfort us, but we are to be conduits of God’s mercy and comfort just as we are with all of His blessings.

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.”

I love the complete title of Nyquist’s book, Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture.

 

How to Prepare

 

Persecution is 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

“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