These are challenging times to be a believer. There is a huge clash of world views. The truthfulness of God’s Word is being attacked on many fronts. Perhaps, you are being attacked personally for standing for the truth. How should a believer respond to those attacks?
These truly are challenging times to be a believer, and while it is going to get more and more intense as this world of ours spins closer and closer to the 2nd coming of Christ, it’s not new.
There was a “clash” in Jeremiah’s day, too. Chapter 11.21-23:
21 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand’— 22 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts. ‘Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23 and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.’”
There were people who didn’t want to hear the truth and who threatened Jeremiah. In fact, they threatened to kill him if he continued to speak God’s truth. But God said, don’t worry about them, Jeremiah, I’ll deal with them in My time and in My way.
There will be people who are not going to like it when we speak the truth. They may be family members, co-workers, supervisors, friends or enemies. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, but how should we respond?
First, we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5.41).
We shouldn’t try to fight evil with evil. Remember Romans 12.21 tells us: Continue reading →
God had a problem with those in Jeremiah’s time. Even their leaders were giving people a false assurance about their relationships with God and the sinfulness of their behavior. And when the Prophet and others tried to speak the truth, it was a reproach to them.
Many today are more concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone than with speaking the truth. While we are to speak the truth in love, we are still to speak the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable or unpopular.
Sadly, even many of our leaders have compromised the truth. While we can’t fully understand all the motives, it seems that selling books and filling their churches is more important. Even whole denominations have twisted truths about God’s love made them half-truths.
And from our New Testament reading, how did the Apostle Paul pray and do you pray like he prayed? Could his prayers become a model for your own?
“Though they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ surely they swear falsely” (Jer. 5.2).
Sadly, there are many people who attend church, may even be involved in ministry, and who say all the right things. Their conversation is peppered with “praise the Lord” and other “Christian-ese,” but they swear falsely.
When they toss around God’s name merely to look spiritual, they are, actually, using the Lord’s name in vain. And “… are foolish for they do not know the way of the Lord …” (5.4). Jesus said it this way;
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15.8).
May God help us to avoid that kind of hypocrisy in our own lives.
God’s Truth is a Reproach to Them
The last two verses of chapter 5:
30 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?
And in chapter 6, Jeremiah said:
10 To whom shall I speak and give warning,
That they may hear?
Indeed their ear is uncircumcised,
And they cannot give heed.
Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it. (6.10)
What a picture of our world! Just watch those who are “pro-choice” or “gay activists” on a talk show with a Christian. Or try to have a discussion with someone who supports policy which is in opposition to God’s Word. Their “ears” seem unable to even understand what you are saying. They are blind to the truths of God’s Word. In fact, “the Word of the Lord is a reproach to them”!
And to make it worse …
“Peace, Peace” When There Is No Peace
Those who should be calling us back to repentance are not.
13 “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is given to covetousness;
And from the prophet even to the priest,
Everyone deals falsely. (6.13)
In Jeremiah’s day even the priests and prophets were corrupt and no longer able to understand or hear the voice of God.
They were “given to covetousness …” Money isn’t the only thing to be coveted. Today many so-called religious leaders covet fame or popularity, invitations to talk shows and public events, selling books and filling their churches, more than the truths of God.
I am not saying that appearing on TV or having a big church or writing a best-selling book is wrong. But we shouldn’t downplay the clear commands of Scripture or teach less than the full council of God, to achieve that end.
And what about pastors and even whole denominations who say “God loves everyone and if you’re gay, it’s because God made you that way.” They take a truth that God loved the world enough to send His Son to die for our sins (Jn. 3.16) and turn it into a half-truth, by forgetting that He also rose from the dead so that we, too, could have “newness of life” (Rom. 6.4) and not remain in our sin!
14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace. (6.13-14)
What is your state of mind? Is it full of anxiety or is there peace? Are you meditating on some wrong done to you or how God has blessed you? Are you content or striving for more? Your state of mind leads either to peace or to turmoil.
Yesterday I talked about some of my favorite passages in Philippians. Today I want to share a few more from chapter 4:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Be anxious for nothing …” It’s a command, not a suggestion.
Worry is sin! We’re to put off (Eph. 4.22) fear, worry, and anxiety. In its place we’re to put on (Eph. 4.24) prayer and thankfulness.
We know we’re supposed to pray about our concerns, but how often do we think about the second part of that command? Be thankful.
Everything in our lives is filtered through God’s hands. Our trials are uniquely designed by a sovereign God to grow us in the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8.28-29).
Are you thankful? Are you thanking Him for His work in your life?
The more we come to know Him, to trust in His sovereignty and goodness, the more His peace will guard our hearts and minds. The level of our peace depends on the quality of our relationship with Him and our willingness to humble ourselves under His hand (Jas. 4.10).
The battle for peace takes place in our thinking. The enemies are discontent, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. Paul goes on in verses 8 and 9:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Instead of playing the video tape in our minds of that hurt, sin, or some real or imagined wrong done to us, we must learn to meditate on what God says about our situations. Instead of thinking about what someone has that we don’t or something we think we deserve and believe God is withholding, we need to think about the blessings in our lives. We need to be thankful for what we have.
One book that continues to resonate with me and impact my life, particularly my prayer life, is Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible. Even though I had prayed many Bible passages in the past, his book encouraged me to pray more from the Scriptures, especially the Psalms.
One of my goals for next year is to pray through the Bible as I read. I’d like to share with you what that will look like, give you some examples of how to pray passages of Scripture, and tell you about something new happening here on the blog next year.
In that post, I said that while both require discipline, I believe one or the other usually comes easier for each of us and the other not so much. I confided that prayer is the one that requires greater discipline on my part. Perhaps that’s why I’ve read so many books on prayer and why Donald Whitney’s book Praying the Bible impacted me so greatly.
Even so, I have not used the principles he shared nearly as often or as faithfully as I would like. One of my goals for next year is to, with God’s help, spend more time praying God’s Word.
So, today I’d like to share with you some examples of praying the Bible and something new I’ll be adding to the blog in 2018. I’m excited about it because it’s partly selfish as it’s part of my plan to keep me on track and accountable. I pray it will be a blessing to you, as well.
Not My Will
We’ve all heard the adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” or the Christian version, “Be careful what you pray for.”
That makes me think about Hezekiah. He was one of Israel’s rare good kings. The Bible says he did, “what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 31:20).
He cleaned out the temple after his father, the wicked King Ahaz, had nailed it shut. He tore down the pagan altars, destroyed the idols, and reinstated the priesthood and temple worship.
When faced with destruction from the Assyrians, he prayed one of the most incredible prayers in the Bible. 2 Kings 19:15-19:
15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
God answered that prayer in a dramatic way.
But later in his life, Hezekiah became very sick. Through the Prophet Isaiah, God told him to set his life in order that he was going to die. Yet, when he prayed, God gave him another 15 years (2 Kings 20.1-7).
Unfortunately, the last 15 years of his life were marked by a lack of wisdom that cost the nation and his descendants greatly. He, also, fathered Manasseh, the son who succeeded him. Manasseh turned out to be the most wicked king to reign over Judah (2 Kings 20.12-19).
I didn’t share all that to imply, we shouldn’t pray for God’s mercy when faced with sickness or other trials. God certainly could have said “no” to Hezekiah’s request. But our prayers will always be imperfect and sometimes out of step with God’s best. So, it’s important to hold those prayer requests in an open hand and maintain the same attitude Christ had in the Garden of Gethsemane, “nevertheless, not my will but Yours, Lord.”
Praying God’s Perfect Will
Yet, when we pray God’s Word, properly understood, we can know that we are praying God’s perfect will. Isaiah said:
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Is. 55.11).
I say properly understood because even as we pray the Scriptures, we need to remember there are passages relating to specific people and circumstances that are not God’s specific will for everyone. No matter how much you pray for a virgin birth or for the sun to stand still, it’s probably not going to happen. Those were special moves of God’s hand in His story of redemption. So it’s important for us to understand a verse in its context.
But when we pray passages relating to spiritual growth and God’s principles for living, we can be sure we’re praying according to God’s will.
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 Jn. 5.14-15).
How to Pray the Scriptures
If you’ve never tried praying God’s Word back to Him, you may wonder exactly how to do it. I don’t want to imply that there are rules, but sometimes it helps to have some practical examples. Continue reading →
I’ve noticed that most people either find prayer a natural part of their Christian life or thoroughly enjoy studying the Bible. But rarely, have I met someone who says both come easily and naturally to them. Yet, it’s the two of them working together that are God’s essential means of Christian growth.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival
The 2 Essential Means of Christian Growth
Bible study comes pretty easy for me. I love reading my Bible. That doesn’t mean I do it perfectly or haven’t had to discipline myself to make it a part of my daily life, but once I acquired that habit, my hunger for God’s Word grew. And now I can’t see my life without reading and studying God’s Word.
I, also, know that prayer is important. I teach others that prayer is a necessary part of our Christian life. And I pray. Or maybe I should say, I work at praying.
I have a prayer list and verses of Scripture I like to pray for my husband, myself, and those I love. I pray as part of my journaling (the most effective way for me). I’m not afraid to pray in restaurants and other public places. I pray alone. I pray with others.
I want prayer to be like breathing for me. But the truth is, it’s more like work.
What comes easier for you? Is it prayer? Or is it reading and studying your Bible?
These two means of grace must be used in their right proportion. If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.
When it comes to prayer, I’ve read many books and heard more than a few sermons. I always go away more motivated and, often, excited about something new I want to incorporate into my prayer life. Other times the message is a reminder of something I know to be true. But, honestly, I find I still have to discipline myself to pray.
Jesus said that prayer can move mountains (Mk. 11.23) and James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jas. 5.16b). James went on to say:
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
Hannah prayed and God opened her womb (1 Sam. 1).
Elisha prayed and a boy was raised from the dead (2 Kings 4.32-37).
Sampson prayed and God answered, even after he failed miserably:
28 Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” 29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. 30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life (Judges 16.28-30).
Daniel prayed and God sent the Angel Gabriel. Cornelius prayed and God sent Peter to his home. Peter’s friends prayed and he was released from prison. Paul and Silas prayed and a jailer and his family were saved. Over and over again in the Bible we see God move in response to prayer.
Jesus prayed before He chose His twelve apostles, when faced with the demands of ministry, when a friend died, on the night He was betrayed, and just before He died for the sins of the world.
We’re taught to pray (Matt. 6.9-13), encouraged to pray (Lk. 18.1), and commanded to pray (1 Thess 5.17). Prayer is mentioned over 250 times in the Bible. So, why is prayer so important?
Simply put, prayer is the best way for us to communicate with God. Reading His Word is listening to Him. Prayer is our response. Any relationship requires the give and take of both.
Prayer offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our need for God, to confess our sins and to thank Him for His many blessings. It helps us stay dependent on Him, instead of relying on ourselves.
God doesn’t need us to pray; He wants us to pray. He can perform His will with or without us, but He has given us the privilege of being part of what He’s doing in the earth.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me wonder why I have so much trouble disciplining myself to pray, at times.
Many people today, including believers, have an entitlement attitude. We want what other people have and refuse to be content where God has us. Sometimes we work hard and and can’t understand why they seem to get ahead and not us. In other cases, we’re lazy and not willing to do what is required. But either way, instead of trusting that God knows what’s best, we grumble, complain, and even become bitter and resentful.
Grumbling, Complaining & Coveting or Faithfully Working & Obeying?
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare.”
These two verses make me think of a story I read about a famous pianist. A man came up to him once and said, “I would give my life to be able to play like that.” The pianist replied, “I did.”
I am not advocating neglecting family or any other God-given priority to seek selfish goals, but so often we want things that others have without being willing to do what it takes to obtain them. In the case of a lazy man, he covets the things that others have worked to obtain, but isn’t willing to do the same.
This is an attitude that is rampant in our society today. Many people, even Christians, have an entitlement attitude, even about spiritual things. Continue reading →
In the first century a small army of believers turned the world upside down in a matter of a few years without TV, radio, or mass media. They simply believed in the power of the Gospel to change lives and the Holy Spirit working through them. And they did it in the face of intense opposition. Could we turn the world upside down again if we had the same faith and commitment?
What’s the real problem with the leadership in our nation? Is it party affiliation? A lack of compassion for the poor? Too much politics or too little experience? The answer is really pretty simple.
One of the greatest evils in our nation today is our failure to defend unborn babies. Will God hold us, as a nation, responsible?
Can being unequally yoked in marriage, in business, and in our close friendships affect our walk with God?
And finally, today’s readings contain one of the greatest prayers recorded. It was prayed by a man who fell short like us, but who understood where to turn for help.
In verse 6 the Thessalonians said about the disciples, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”
Beginning with the original Apostles, as they evangelized and discipled others who in turn evangelized and discipled still others, the world was turned upside down in a matter of a few years without TV, radio, or mass media, just the Word of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I wonder what you and I are doing or could do to turn the world upside down. Are we as committed to share the gospel as those in the first century? Would we still be willing to blog about God and His Word if knew we could be arrested? Would we still attend worship services? Do we invest the time and effort necessary to influence the world around us for Christ?
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
This is discipleship. Discipleship takes time and faithfulness. It’s coming alongside someone. It might mean going through a book on marriage with a young wife or a new believer. It might mean working through a book or Bible study on the character of God, the basics of the faith, or some other subject. It might mean teaching a young couple how to be godly parents or a newlywed how to keep house for the glory of God.
Paul went on:
3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
Are we so busy with the things of this world that we are too entangled to come alongside someone else?
8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
The Gospel is not limited to our great persuasive ability, a huge platform, or who is in the White House … just our faithfulness.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1.16).
Yesterday, Jehoshaphat, a relatively good king was hanging out with, of all people, Ahab, one of the most wicked kings of the Northern Kingdom. He and his wife Jezebel took the nation of Israel deeper and deeper into idolatry. Today’s reading begins: Continue reading →
In Acts 15.37-41 Paul and Barnabas disagreed over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey—so much so that they split up and go two separate ways.
God gifts us all differently and sometimes we will disagree on things even in areas of ministry. I imagine Paul as being very practical. John Mark had deserted them on the previous journey and he wanted someone he knew would be dependable.
Barnabas, however, was an encourager. In fact, Barnabas was not his real name. His name was Joses, but he was such an encourager that the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4.36). God used their differences to further spread the gospel as two missionary teams went out with their different styles and callings.
All believers receive a spiritual gift or, perhaps, we might call it a gifting as it is often a blend of spiritual gifts in varying amounts (1 Pet. 4.10, 1 Cor. 12). We receive it at the time of our conversion. This spiritual gifting is unique to us and different from our natural talents, although they sometimes work together. Spiritual gifts are not given to make us look good or to use for our own spiritual gain, but for the benefit of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.7). Continue reading →
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. Psalm 33.12
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,and giving of thanks be made for all men,for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2.1-3
Is prayer like going to the First National Bank of God? Do you have a blank check with God? Should you expect God to give you anything you want? If not, what does it mean that God gives you the desires of your heart?
First National Bank of God & the Desires of Your Heart
2 Chronicles 1 & 2:
A Blank Check with God
2 Chronicles begins with the reign of Solomon. One of his first orders of business was to build the temple that his father David wanted to build.
Also, in chapter 1 God appeared to him and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Wow! Can you imagine a blank check on the First National Bank of God? Of course, we know that Solomon asked for wisdom which God gave him in abundance to say the least! People came from far and wide to see and hear it for themselves! But because his prayer was for something pleasing to God, God blessed him with riches and honor, as well.
But what if Solomon’s request had contradicted God’s will? Would God still have answered? And is God bound to always answer our prayers?
In reality, as believers, we have the same “blank check” with God. John 15.7 says:
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”