Recently I heard of someone who said he was willing to come to church to “see what God has to offer him.” That’s understandable for an unbeliever who is just beginning to explore the claims of Christ. But sadly, many professing believers seem to follow Him for much the same reason.
2 Samuel 9 & 10
Why do you follow Jesus?
What’s in it for Me?
Verse 2, “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.”
They didn’t follow Him because they saw their need for spiritual change, but for what He could do for them. Sadly, that hasn’t changed for many people.
God does bless those who love Him, but that should never be our primary motive for serving Him. We are to live our lives to please God out of our desire to bring glory and honor to His name, not with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude.
Chapters 9 & 10 give us a glimpse of David’s heart—first as he showed kindness to Mephibosheth as a way of honoring his covenant with Jonathan and in chapter 10 as he sent representatives to comfort Hanun at the time of his father’s death.
Sadly, David’s gesture toward Hanun was not only rejected, but met with ridicule by Hanun when he shamed and humiliated David’s ambassadors. Should we be surprised when our gestures of peace and kindness are met with rejection? Those in the world often find it hard to believe we don’t have ulterior motives, because of what’s in their own hearts. Continue reading →
Paul Tripp compares living in our world to life in “a broken down house” where none of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. Instead, the plumbing doesn’t work, the roof leaks, and things don’t work right.
Neither are we guaranteed all the time we would like to accept or reject the gospel. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” None of us are guaranteed tomorrow!
1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Certainly, there are laws of sowing and reaping and we shouldn’t think we can live any way we desire without consequences. Galatians 6.7-10:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
But even when we desire to live righteous lives, we should remember that we live in a world that Paul Tripp compares to “a broken down house” where the plumbing is bad, the roof leaks, and things don’t work right. Our world, our bodies, and even our minds, have been damaged by the effects of sin in the earth. Things happen: disease, natural disasters, and calamities of every sort. None of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. In fact, we’re not even guaranteed tomorrow!
And when it comes to God gracious gift of salvation through the gospel, neither can we take it for granted. It’s a dangerous thing to bank our eternity on the fact that we were raised in a Christian home or we’ll get our lives right after we’ve had our fun.
2 Corinthians 6.1-2:
1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
If you’re not sure you have a right relationship with Him, please don’t think you’ll always have another opportunity.
Even as believers, we have no guarantees. Let us live everyday as fully and as mindfully as if it was our last.
I found it interesting that the Levites were given cities in the territories occupied by the other tribes rather than isolated in their own territory. This enabled them to be examples to the people, but also put a responsibility on them to live upright lives.
Like us, their walk was to match their talk. Paul said we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5.20), lights in a dark world (Phil. 2.15), and that our goal in life should be to please God (2 Cor. 5.9). Continue reading →
Life seems to be full of choices. Little choices. Big choices. In reality, there are only two choices …” and our decisions often determine whether life goes well or whether life gets hard. Check out today’s reading in Proverbs to find out more about those two choices.
Verse 5 says, “The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright …”
What guides you and your choices? Is it righteousness? And what exactly does that mean? A few years ago it was popular to wear jewelry that posed the question, “What would Jesus do?” The jewelry was a reminder to consider that question as we went through the events of life. But sadly, like so many things that become popular, we heard it so often it lost its impact. We shouldn’t let that happen.
What did Jesus do?
First, Jesus faced all the same temptations we face, but He never sinned in the process.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Heb. 5.15 NIV).
Second, Jesus came to not only be our sinless Savior, but, also, our perfect example.
1 Peter 2.21b (NIV), “… because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
In fact, God is using the “all things” talked about in Romans 8.28 to help us grow and become more like Him (Rom. 8.29).
So, what would Jesus do in that decision you’re trying to make? How would He handle that rude sales person or someone who sinned against you? How would He respond to that test or trial? To what (or Whom) would He run when stressed or angry or tired or hungry?
Jesus is the Word of God lived out in the flesh, so if we want to know what Jesus would do, we only need to go to His written Word.
Do we let doing right—righteousness—guide us in all things? Doing right is not what is good or right for us, but what’s right by God’s standard.
Proverbs 14.12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Let’s seek God’s help daily to let His righteousness—His Word—guide us.
In counseling we have a simple little saying, “Only two choices on the shelf … pleasing God or pleasing self.” Often doing what pleases Him is the harder decision. It may require going against the current of popular opinion. It almost always requires going against our own selfish desires. But Jesus said:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me … and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11.29-30).
What starts out to be the harder decision gets easier with God’s help.
On the other hand, doing what seems right to us, is easy. It comes naturally. But Continue reading →
Could you be worshiping idols? Don’t think so … What do you trust in to bring you pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape? What are your “if only’s” and “I must’s”? Is it possible even for “good things” to become idols?
God warned His people over and over to repent and turn from idolatry. Their refusal to do so took them into captivity and cost them the loss of their land, their homes, their freedom, and often their families.
But warnings against idolatry didn’t stop with the Old Testament and weren’t limited to the worship of statues (1 Cor. 10.12-14; 1 Jn. 5.21). How can we be sure that we don’t have false gods that we’re depending on more than God Himself?
Chapter 13.22 says, “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life.”
Ezekiel told the false prophets they had it backwards, they were making the heart of the righteous sad and actually encouraging sinners whom God had made sad as a means of saving their lives. When we merely try to make people “feel better” about sin and unrighteousness, we often get in the way of what God is doing.
Idols of the Heart
1 Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?
4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’
6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. (14.1-6)
God told the prophet to warn the people that they had “idols in their hearts.” When we think of idolatry, we usually think of some false god or statue to which we bow down, but the idols Ezekiel wrote about here were not statues; they were what the people valued, what they put their trust in.
Could you and I be worshiping idols?
An idol can be anything we want more than God Himself. It can be something that consumes our lives and pushes God out of His rightful place. It’s what we trust in to bring us pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape. It’s anything we want more than pleasing God with our lives.
When we have sex outside of marriage, we may be worshiping pleasure or companionship. When we walk away from a marriage because we aren’t “happy,” we’re valuing our happiness or having our own way above pleasing God.
Even a good thing, like having a godly husband, can become an idol. If we’re willing to sin to get it (nagging, criticizing …) or sin because we don’t (withholding affection …), that thing—whether good or bad—is an idol. Continue reading →
In previous posts (see list at bottom) we’ve looked at some of the problems that are often present in blended families. We’ve talked about taking the logs out of our own eyes so we can see clearly. We’ve looked at some of God’s promises and, in the last blog, we talked about changing our goal from liking each other to loving each other with God’s kind of love. But there’s an even bigger goal that needs to become our number one priority. Paul talked about it in 1 Corinthians 5.9:
9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.
Our primary goal individually and as a family should be to please God—not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appreciated, but to please God. We please God by becoming more like His Son (Matt. 3.17; Rom. 8.29), by obeying His Word, and by making His priorities our priorities.
Psalm 128.1-4 (NLT) says:
1 How joyful are those who fear the LORD—
all who follow his ways!
2 You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
How joyful and prosperous you will be!
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine,
flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees
as they sit around your table.
4 That is the LORD’s blessing
for those who fear him.
The Lord’s blessings are contingent on fearing God and walking in His way. Isaiah 43.7 says we were created for His glory. Whatever we do, including blending a family is to be done in a way that brings Him glory.
It starts with the husband and wife relationship. Genesis 2.18, 24:
18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
The man and the woman are to leave their parents and be joined to their spouse in a covenant of companionship. The parent-child relationship is a temporary one. That means we’re not only to leave our parents, but we’re to be preparing our children to leave our home one day.
The husband and wife relationship is to be permanent and given priority. The one flesh relationship is much more than just sexual, it’s a bonding of two lives: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and socially.
When the Apostle Paul gave instructions for the Christian family, he first addressed our relationship with God, then the husband-wife relationship, and then the parent-child relationship (Col. 3.16-21; Eph. 5.15-33, 6.1-4). The husband-wife relationship is to be second only to our relationship with God.
The husband and wife are to be a unit, functioning together as a team, making decisions and working to solve problems together.
But, sadly, in many blended families, biological parents side with their children in disputes, are more permissive with them, and grow to have an us versus him or her mentality.
A biological parent may believe the step-parent is harsh or lacks understanding. All of this can be complicated by shared custody, different parenting styles, angry or manipulative children, feelings of guilt over a divorce, or a general lack of understanding about biblical principles.
One step-mother’s experience (the names and some of the details have been changed):
“Monday through Friday things are pretty calm. But come Friday night when Joe picks up his son, Jesse, everything changes. Jesse is younger than my two children, so they’re expected to let him have his way. I’m not allowed to discipline him because his mother wouldn’t like it. He’s a picky eater, so he usually demands something special for meals, often requiring a trip to the store. The whole week-end is structured around what Jesse wants. He stays up late, is over-tired the next day, and whines when things don’t go his way. My children are hurt and angry and I usually end up taking them to the movies or out for pizza just to keep the peace. Joe and I both end the week-end exhausted. I got married so Joe and I could share the load, but I feel like I do everything I always did, plus trying to keep conflict to a minimum. On top of everything else our relationship is suffering. We don’t talk because we just end up arguing and we don’t have the energy to do anything else.”
In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (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 His 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 political seasons and other setbacks, we must point to the only source of real hope. Our hope cannot be in the candidate of our choice, the hope that our nation will wake up and turn back to God, or any other person or event.
The fact is we don’t know if any of those things will happen. 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, and the reality of heaven and the promise of eternal rewards. And while our saltiness may sting at times, it must be balanced with the brightness of our lives that will cause others to want what we have.
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.
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 …
“ 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 →
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
We talked about Jude 24 and how God tells us that one day He will cause us to stand before Him faultless.
But there is a progression to it. By God’s grace we are progressing from what we were on the day of our spiritual birth (the “already”) and what Jude talks about in verse 24 (the “not yet”).
Here between the “already” and the “not yet” God is progressively changing us as we learn to:
1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-5).
2. Accept His discipline (Heb. 12.5-11).
3. Keep the 2 great commandments (Matt. 22.37-40).
4. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
5. Trust in His sovereignty (Rom. 8.28-29; 1 Cor. 10.13).
Today in the second post in that series, we’ll talk about how we should respond to difficult, even sinful, people.
Responding to Difficult People
Do you have any difficult people in your life? Is there someone that God has not changed (even though you have been praying and praying) … and it’s hard?
It could be a work situation or a family situation. Maybe you’re being mistreated, insulted or falsely accused?
The truth is, most of us have relationships that are challenging!
In counseling much of what we deal with concerns relationship issues:
A couple may come because they can’t be in the same room without fighting.
A wife may come because her husband is harsh and unloving.
Parents come because a child is disrespectful and angry.
Someone else comes because they are still struggling with mistreatment or abuse from childhood.
Parents come with a child who is being bullied.
How do these things fit into God’s plans and purposes for us?
Let’s just say for a minute “Lois” comes in. Her husband is harsh and unloving and not even willing to come for counseling.
Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says that we are all fellow sufferers AND fellow sinners. Even when we are sinned against, we complicate the situation by our responses.
So Lois finds herself yelling, complaining, gossiping to friends, and even threatening her husband with divorce. Now things are not going well. In fact, life has gotten hard!
I will often draw what we call the “Y- Chart” and share with her this simple phrase “Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”
“Only 2 choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”
Pleasing self starts out easy. It comes naturally to us. But …
Proverbs 13.15 says “the way of the transgressor is hard.”
What starts out easy gets hard; things don’t go well. Our sin only worsens the situation.
Psalm 32.10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked.”
And Romans 2.9 says:
There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …
Synonyms for those two words “tribulation” and “distress” include depression, shame, guilt, anxiety, affliction, agony, hurt, misery, pain, torment, and woe, just for starters.
Doing evil can involve sins of commission or sins of omission. Sins of commission are things we do that we shouldn’t and sins of omission are our failures to do what we should.
Pleasing self starts out easy, but, eventually, life gets hard!
The other way … pleasing God, starts out hard. It goes against our natural way of thinking.
We have thoughts like: “If I let him get away with that, he’ll think it’s ok” or “Do you expect me to be a doormat?” It’s hard! But … Jesus said in Matthew 11.28-30:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What starts out “hard” gets easier and our burden gets lighter.
A minute ago I quoted Romans 2.9:
“There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …”
But verse 10 says:
“but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good …”
John 13.17 says, now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. And James 1.25 says it’s the doer of the Word who will be blessed.
So back to Lois … life has gotten hard, there’s tribulation and distress, made worse by Continue reading →
With fire to devour their enemies, the power to shut heaven, turn water to blood, and strike the earth with plagues, His two witnesses will warn, preach, and prophesy during the first half of the Tribulation.
6 With what shall I come before the LORD,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
1 Samuel 15.22 says it this way:
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
God does not want our sacrifices alone. He isn’t looking for religious activity Continue reading →
Chapter 3.7, “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”
Even though God is God, and His thoughts and plans are so above ours that they can never be fully understood (Is.55.8-9), He chooses to reveal Himself to us through the gift of language, in particular, the Scriptures. That is why it is so important to read, study, meditate on, and memorize His Word.
In these chapters God through the prophet continues to warn of coming judgments, but reminds them there will always be a faithful remnant (18.6).
As we see what’s happening here in our nation, we cannot give up or lose hope. We must realize that is our calling—to be part of His 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 you 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? Continue reading →