“Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride” February 5

 

Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride - In Matthew 23, Jesus made some unusual statements: "Do not call anyone on earth your father ..." "... he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it." "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" In another passage, He said, "Do not judge, lest you be judged." So, are titles wrong? What about oaths? Should we strengthen our commitments by swearing by things bigger than ourselves? And what did Jesus mean when He said, "Do not judge ...?"In Matthew 23, Jesus made some unusual statements: “Do not call anyone on earth your father …” “… he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.” “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” In another passage, He said, “Do not judge, lest you be judged.”

So, are titles wrong? What about oaths? Should we strengthen our commitments by swearing by things bigger than ourselves? And what did Jesus mean when He said, “Do not judge …?”

And in our Old Testament reading, why would God lay out such an elaborate systems of laws and regulations? Did those laws limit or enhance freedom? Do they have any connection to our laws today?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 21 & 22
Psalm 18.46-50
Proverbs 6.26-29
Matthew 23.1-22

 

Titles, Oaths, Judging & Pride

 

Matthew 23:1-22

Titles & Authority

 

Sometimes verses must be studied in the light of other verses and passages in the Bible. If we take one or two verses and isolate them, we can easily read more into them or something different from what was intended. Also, studying the texts in their original languages can help our understanding. That doesn’t mean that we must be Greek or Hebrew scholars. We are blessed to live in a time when there are many excellent and understandable references and commentaries written by people who have studied the texts carefully and prayerfully.

Verses 8-10, for instance, where Jesus said:

“… do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”

Jesus is not condemning titles. The Apostle Paul called himself a “father” to the Corinthians. And in Ephesians 4:11-12 where Paul is talking about spiritual gifts, he says:

“He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Rather Jesus was condemning the religious leaders who set themselves up as the final authority on spiritual matters as if they were the source of the truth. God through His Word must always be our source of truth. No man or woman is infallible, only God.  Continue reading

“Should we submit to church authority?” November 19

 

Should we submit to church authority?

How should we view church authority? Should we submit to our church leaders? What is our responsibility? How does God use this “to watch out for our souls”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 29 & 30
Psalm 129.5-8
Proverbs 28.27
Hebrews 13.1-25

 

Should we submit to church authority?

 

Hebrews 13.1-25:

Church Authority

 

Should we submit to church authority?

Verse 7 says, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”

And verse 17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

In a day and age when we value our independence and “rights” so much, this can be hard for us to accept. God is a God of order and He puts a great emphasis on authority. This passage says, “Obey those who rule over you”—our pastors and elders—“… for they watch out for your souls …” Just as He does in marriage and the family, God works through imperfect people to lead and guide His children for their good and protection.

Our responsibility is to become part of a biblical New Testament church, one that is teaching the Word of God and encouraging the growth of its members. We should become active members by making ourselves accountable to others within the church community, using our gifts to serve one another, praying for each other and our leaders, and submitting to the authority of the church leadership (unless we are asked to violate a clear command of Scripture).  Continue reading

“Where is God When Life is Hard?” November 18

 

When Life is Hard - Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 27 & 28
Psalm 129.1-4
Proverbs 28.26
Hebrews 12.1-29

 

When Life is Hard

 

Hebrews 12.1-29:

God Our Perfect Parent

 

When Life Is Hard

This chapter talks about the discipline or the chastening of the Lord. When we go through difficult times, the devil tempts us to believe that it’s because God doesn’t love us or because we aren’t really believers or that we must have done something so horrible that He will no longer help us.

But in reality, the opposite is true. This chapter clearly tells us that “whom the Lord loves He chastens.” So whether we are chastened because of unrepentant sin, pruned so that we will bear more fruit (Jn. 15), or suffering the consequences of our own choices (Gal. 6.7-9), it is proof that God loves us.

As Psalm 119.71 says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” and verse 75 adds, “in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

Pastor James MacDonald has done a wonderful, life-changing series based on Hebrews 12.5-17 entitled When Life Is Hard. In it he explains the importance of understanding how God as the Perfect Parent lovingly disciplines His children, how He does it because He loves us, and how He uses it for our good.

He also outlines the dangerous process that can happen to someone who rejects God’s discipline. That person can become discouraged and then bitter. That bitterness can defile everything and everyone around it. And, if those attitudes are not dealt with, it can lead to profane living and, finally, rejection.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 27 & 28:

Pride & Humility

 

God continues to speak through the prophet, this time to Tyre, a coastal city in modern Lebanon famous for its trade and goods. In 28.11-17 he speaks to the King of Tyre. This passage and others in the Bible, especially in the prophetic books and the Psalms, have duel meanings. While it is addressed to the historical king and city, it also speaks of Satan who was the power behind the King of Tyre.  Continue reading

“What is the key to the Christian life?” November 17

 

Key to the Christian Life

What is the key to the Christian life?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 25 & 26
Psalm 128.1-6
Proverbs 28.25
Hebrews 11.17-40

 

What is the key to the Christian life?

 

Hebrews 11.17-40:

Hall of Fame of Faith

 

As we continue through the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” notice that all the Old Testament saints listed throughout this chapter received the blessings of God “by faith.” They didn’t achieve great things for God because of any inherent goodness in them, nor did they receive it because of their own bravery or intelligence or any other characteristic, but rather, through faith. The same is true today.

In fact, faith runs through all our readings today: faith to be saved (Eph. 2.8-9), faith to trust God’s ways in our Proverbs reading, faith to live the Christian life (2 Cor. 5.7), faith in prayer (Jas. 1.6, 5.15), faith to keep us from the pride we see condemned throughout Proverbs, and more …

We are to do all that we do in faith. In fact, Scripture says, anything not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14.23). We might even say that faith is the key to the Christian life. Over and over again we must put our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, the Holy Spirit’s power, and the Father’s faithfulness in our lives.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 25 & 26:

Those Who Put Their Faith in Him

 

In these two chapters God was declaring his intent to bring judgment on the pagan nations around Judah and Israel. But even while He brought judgment on those nations, He always responded in mercy to anyone who put his or her faith in Him. We see a great example of this in our New Testament reading in Hebrews where we are told that Rehab, a harlot, was saved because she put her faith and trust in the One True God (Heb. 11.31).  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 5: Favoritism and Other Four-Letter Words + LINKUP

 

We've been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we're going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one ... favoritism. - We've been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we're going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one ... favoritism.

 

Blended Families Part 5: Favoritism and Other Four-Letter Words

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we’re going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one … favoritism. We’ll also look at the need to view the blended family as one and how to avoid having a child-centered home.

In the last blog, I said the overarching goal of blending a family and for all of life is to please God (2 Cor. 5.9)—not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appreciated, but to please God.

I also discussed the importance of biblically loving one another, rather than merely getting along or even liking each other (Blended Families Part 3). And last week I started discussing the priority of the husband and wife relationship (Blended Families Part 4). Today we’ll look at some specific ways we can strengthen the marriage relationship, even while handling tough parenting issues.

 

Joe’s & Liz’s Story

 

Do you remember Joe and Liz (Blended Families Part 4)? Week-ends were rough with the added dynamic of Joe’s son from his previous marriage. How might they plan to have a better week-end the next time Joe’s son is with them?

 

Praying Together for God’s Wisdom

 

James 1.2-8 says:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

God promises to give wisdom to those who ask in faith and have a heart that’s willing to obey. And later in his epistle James added, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (Jas. 4.2). Parents in blended families need wisdom and, yet, how often do we actually stop and ask?

Failure to ask for God’s help and wisdom is foolishness, at best, and more often a form of pride, since we’re really saying, “Lord, I don’t need Your help. I can figure this out for myself!” It’s so easy to think the way that seems right to us is the right way. But Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14.12). Whether we’re faced with a stressful, potentially mine-filled week-end or just day-to-day events, we should be praying regularly for God’s wisdom.

 

Family Not Families

 

It’s important to see your family as one and your children as yours jointly and to prayerfully make decisions as a team. Practice taking time to talk over issues, in advance, considering the needs of all the children and your family as a whole. It’s especially important not to make special rules for children who aren’t in the household full time or to favor your biological children over your step-children.

 

Favoritism … The Other F-Word

 

Favoritism is quite possibly the biggest destroyer of the blended family. It weakens the husband and wife relationship, hinders the step-parent’s relationship with the other children, and leads to anger and bitterness. And, ironically, it often hurts the favored child as much as anyone else. Trust me on this one; it will create chaos and can drive a wedge between family members faster than you can imagine.  Continue reading

One Verse that Could Change Your Marriage Forever

 

One Verse that Could Change Your Marriage Forever - Is there really one verse that could change your marriage forever? Could it change other relationships, as well? I believe there is!Is there really one verse that could change your marriage forever? Could it change other relationships, as well? I believe there is!

 

First, let me say that knowing this verse won’t change your marriage. Even memorizing this verse won’t change your marriage. Using it like a club over your mate, definitely, won’t change your marriage … not even praying it will do it!

 

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in praying the Scriptures and this verse (actually two verses to be more precise) would be a great passage to pray for your marriage and other relationships, but it can’t stop there.

And I believe it’s important to know the Word of God. The Scriptures were given by God, in part, to teach us how to have good relationships, beginning with our relationship with God Himself.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3.16-17, NASB)

It not only teaches us, but it reproves us … shows us where we’re going wrong, corrects us … shows us how to get it right, and trains us so we can make godly living a lifestyle.

I, also, believe this would be a great verse to share with your spouse as something the two of you could work on together, though, we need to be sure we’re taking the logs out of our own eyes before we try to tell someone else where they’re going wrong (Matt. 7.3-5).

I believe in memorizing Scripture. Psalm 119.11 says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  Continue reading