“White Magic, Jesus & Resisting the Devil” May 13

 

White Magic, Jesus & Resisting the Devil - Is there any such thing as white magic? Is it OK for Christians to read their horoscopes or study astrology or numerology? Is there anything wrong with tarot cards, cleansings, Ouija boards, and palm reading? Have you ever dabbled in those things? Would you know how to talk to someone who has? If there is a spiritual world out there, should we be afraid of them? How do we resist those things?Is there any such thing as white magic? Is it OK for Christians to read their horoscopes or study astrology or numerology? Is there anything wrong with tarot cards, cleansings, Ouija boards, and palm reading?

Have you ever dabbled in those things? Would you know how to talk to someone who has?

If there is a spiritual world out there, should we be afraid of it? How do we resist those things?

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 28
Psalm 61.1-4
Proverbs 16.6
John 3.1-18

 

White Magic, Jesus & Resisting the Devil

 

1 Samuel 28:

Mediums and Spiritists

 

This is one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible and difficult to understand at first glance. The chapter opens by telling us that Samuel has died and that Saul has banished all the mediums and spiritists from the land. Then when God won’t answer him, he resorts to seeking out a medium himself.

How about you? How do you respond when answers to prayer are slow in coming? Do you continue to wait on God or resort to your own solutions?

We can’t put God in a box or demand that He do things on our timetable. Just because we have decided to walk in biblical love and forgiveness toward our spouse, doesn’t mean God is, immediately, going to cause him or her to change.

Just because we give financially doesn’t mean all our debt will disappear or we’ll instantly have the job of our dreams. In fact, our expectations are often part of the problem. We are to obey God out of a desire to please Him, not to get some desired result. Instead, we need to trust Him for the right result. It’s not that blessings don’t come as a result of our obedience, but our attitude is not to be one of “giving to get something.”

 

White Magic

 

God has always forbidden His people to seek after spiritists and mediums.

Deuteronomy 29.29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

In fact, under the law anyone practicing such things was to be put to death! And God’s attitude about them has not changed. There is no such thing as “white” or harmless magic, witchcraft or spiritism, even if its practitioners claim to believe in God or talk about Jesus. It’s not the Jesus of the Bible. Remember, the devil Continue reading

“Are You Ready?” May 2

 

Are you ready? -

Are you ready? God is a merciful God. He has offered us the free gift of salvation. It’s available to any and all who will come to Him in faith and repentance. But there’s coming a day when He will return for His people and time will be up.

It’s important that we understand the balance between truth and grace in our lives. While we do live in an age of grace where God has offered the free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, and where we can trust the truthfulness of verses like 1 John 1.9, we should not and cannot live as if there will not be a day when Jesus comes back as the Righteous Judge.

At Christ’s second return, there will be many who say:

“‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then [He] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7.22-23). 

Are you ready?

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 6 & 7
Psalm 55.1-8
Proverbs 15.14
Luke 21.20-38

 

Are you ready?

 

1 Samuel 6 & 7:

Golden Tumors

 

In yesterday’s reading God had allowed the Philistines to defeat the nation of Israel and to capture the ark of God. The Philistines mistakenly thought their god Dagon was responsible for the victory and that he had defeated the God of Israel, but they soon learned differently. When they placed the ark in Dagon’s temple, the statue of Dagon fell over twice and the second time its head and hands were broken off. And when they moved the ark, the people were plagued with tumors and death.

Ark of the Covenant - Are you ready?

They soon realized they needed to return it to Israel! So they made an elaborate plan to do so. Part of the plan was to include a sacrifice of five golden tumors and five golden rats as a representative of and payment for their sin.

Can you imagine having to announce your sin to everyone? It reminded me of the woman in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel The Scarlet Letter. She had to wear a giant scarlet “A” sewn to her dress so everyone would know she was an adulteress.

1 John 1.9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Aren’t you glad God made a provision for us to humbly come to Him and confess our sins, instead of commanding us to display golden images of our “tumors”? Jesus allowed Himself to be publicly displayed and humiliated so we don’t have to be.

There are times when we do need to confess our sins to others and rare times when our sin has affected a larger group and we need to go “public” with our confession and repentance, but the only sacrifice required is a contrite heart (Ps. 51.17).

Merely saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, though. We must humbly ask God and those we have hurt to forgive us. Then we are to bear the fruit of repentance (Matt. 3.8; Lk. 3.8)—make the changes necessary to demonstrate a changed heart!

 

Luke 21.20-38:

He’s Coming Back … Are You Ready?

 

Verses 25-33 talk about watching for Christ’s return.

Verse 34 says, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

It’s important that we understand the balance between truth and grace in our lives. While we do live in an age of grace where God has offered the free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, and where we can trust the truthfulness of verses like 1 John 1.9, we should not and cannot live as if there will not be a day when Jesus comes back as the Righteous Judge.

At Christ’s second return, there will be many who say:

“‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then [He] will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7.22-23).  Continue reading

“The Danger of Cultural Christianity” April 17

 

 

The Danger of Cultural Christianity - Yesterday was Easter. If you attended church, you probably sang about the blood of Christ that was shed for your sins, but the singing didn't stop there. You, probably, sang about the Resurrection, too. You rejoiced that the tomb is empty and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, having overcome death, hell, and the grave.  But as church goers in America there is a certain danger in the familiarity of all that. We aren't faced with the choice of committing to Christ and facing persecution, even death, or remaining what our culture says we are, at least in name, whether Muslim or Hindu or some other religion. So instead, we run the risk of being cultural Christians, what our family or our tradition says we are ... Christians in name only.Yesterday was Easter. If you attended church, you probably sang about the blood of Christ that was shed for your sins, but the singing didn’t stop there. You, probably, sang about the Resurrection, too. You rejoiced that the tomb is empty and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, having overcome death, hell, and the grave.

But as church goers in America there is a certain danger in the familiarity of all that. We aren’t faced with the choice of committing to Christ and facing persecution, even death, or remaining what our culture says we are, at least in name, whether Muslim or Hindu or some other religion. So instead, we run the risk of being cultural Christians, what our family or our tradition says we are … Christians in name only.

When an observer in Jesus’ time asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He warned that the gate is narrow. And when the people of Joshua’s day claimed that they would serve the Lord, he told them not to take that commitment lightly. Are there many today who have failed to heed those warnings? Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel?

That should be heart-breaking for those of us who truly understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today’s post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 23 & 24
Psalm 47.1-9
Proverbs 14.14
Luke 13.23-35

 

The Danger of Cultural Christianity

 

Joshua 23 & 24:

You Choose … Whether to Serve the Lord or Something Else

 

What a rich portion of Scripture! Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he wants to leave everything in order. He takes time to remind the people about all God has done for them and encourages them to remember how He has been faithful to His Word.

In 23.12-13 he warns them about intermarrying with unbelievers. This is still true today. If you are single and considering marriage or if you do in the future, remember, we are free to marry only in the Lord! (1 Cor. 7.39) – that is to another believer.

Then Joshua calls them to make a choice as to whom they will serve:

“…. choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (v. 24.15).

And when they are quick to say, “We also will serve the Lord,” he challenges them that this is no flippant profession, this is serious business and they should count the cost and mean what they say.

 

Is He Lord?

 

Today many talk about “cheap grace.” If you want to go to heaven, just ask Jesus to come into your heart and He’ll forgive you for your sins and you’ll have your ticket to heaven.

It is true that we can do nothing to deserve salvation and nothing to save ourselves. It is by grace alone through faith alone. But Jesus didn’t imply that it was “cheap.” First of all, it wasn’t cheap for Him. He paid the ultimate price.

Part of coming to Him in faith means we recognize our desperate need for Him and that we are sinners with no ability to fix ourselves. There is to be repentance (a change of heart and mind leading to change in the direction of our lives) and a willingness to acknowledge Him as Lord (Rom. 10.9-10; Acts 2.36). Lord … Master, God, the One who has the right to tell us what is right and wrong and how to live our lives!

Have you truly put your faith and trust in Him for your salvation?

Jesus gave an even stronger warning in today’s New Testament reading.

 

Luke 13.23-35:

The Narrow Gate

 

Jesus warned that the gate is narrow (v. 24) and that many who think they have entered, have not. Verses 23-27:

23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’”

What a terrifying thing, to think you’re assured a place in heaven, yet hear those words, “I do not know you.”

The striving Jesus talked about is not our good works or self-efforts. In fact, we can’t get to heaven based on our own righteousness, because we don’t have any of our own (Rom. 3.10-12).

Today the gate is open (Heb. 3.15). God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim. 2.4), but we must believe and receive the Gospel.

11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1 Jn. 1.11-13).

 

In What Have You Placed Your Hope of Heaven?

 

Is it your church membership or the fact you were born into a Christian family? Is it your good works? Is it simply that you believe in God? Is it that you once prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, or got baptized?

Those are all good things and may take place as part of our salvation experience. But none of them, in and of themselves, can save you! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone (Eph. 2.8-9). His grace, received through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus said, ““The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1.15).

 

So What is the Gospel?

 

If you have any doubts about whether or not you have believed the Gospel, I would encourage you to watch this video by Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary. It’s a little long, but you can’t listen to Dr. Horton’s explanation and not realize what incredibly GOOD NEWS the Gospel really is!  Continue reading

“Broken Down House” April 16

 

Broken Down House - Paul Tripp compares living in our world to life in "a broken down house" where none of us is guaranteed a problem-free life. 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." We're not even guaranteed tomorrow!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!

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 21 & 22
Psalm 46.7-11
Proverbs 14.12-13
Luke 13.1-22

 

Broken Down House

 

Luke 13.1-22:

No Guarantees

 

Verses 1-5:

1There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  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? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 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? 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.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Joshua 21 & 22:

On Being Lights to the World

 

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

“The Accuser” April 15

 

The Accuser - Satan, the accuser of the brethren, seldom rests. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He'll even accuse when it comes to serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God.Satan, the accuser of the brethren, seldom rests. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse us when it comes to serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God. Is there any refuge from his accusations?

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 19 & 20
Psalm 46.1-6
Proverbs 14.7-11
Luke 12.32-59

 

The Accuser

 

Joshua 19 & 20:

Cities of Refuge

 

Chapter 20 talks about the cities of refuge where someone accused of murder or manslaughter could run for safety until a judge could decide his or her fate. Otherwise their accuser might decide to take justice into his own hands.

Our next reading, Psalm 46, reminds us that God Himself is our Refuge from Satan, our accuser (Rev. 12.10). Revelation 12 tells us that he accuses us day and night, sometimes in the throne room of God, as he did with Job. He accuses us about the past. He accuses us about the present. He accuses us about our future. He’ll even accuse us about serving God, reading the Bible, praying or anything else we do for God by telling us that our efforts are inadequate or what we have done in the past is too bad and God will never use us.

 

Our Advocate

 

Either way, we have an Advocate. 1 John 1.7-9, 2.1-2:

7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

And Hebrews 7.25 says, “… He always lives to make intercession for us.”

If we have been regenerated, born again by the Spirit of God, then Christ has paid the price for our sins and Jesus, our Divine Attorney, is our Defender.

 

TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:

 

Psalm 46.1-6:

God is our Refuge

 

This beautiful psalm should remind us from where true peace and stability come. The answer is not from government; even the greatest can fail. It’s not in our finances or our intelligence or anything else on earth. Only God is the “refuge and strength” that will never fail. If we fear God, we don’t need to fear anything else!  Continue reading

“Parenting from the Foot of the Cross” April 10

 

Parenting from the Foot of the Cross - The Bible has so much to say about parenting, and we have many great resources today to help us understand and apply its teachings. It's also an area where we need to apply the gospel, both to ourselves and in the grace we give our children.

The Bible has so much to say about parenting, and we have many great resources today to help us understand and apply its teachings. It’s also an area where we need to apply the gospel, both to ourselves and in the grace we give our children. Check out this great list of resources for parenting kids from toddlers to teens.

 

Today’s Readings:

Joshua 9 & 10
Psalm 44.1-3
Proverbs 13.24-25
Luke 10.1-24

 

Parenting from the Foot of the Cross

 

Proverbs 13.24-25:

The Bible on Parenting

 

Verse 24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

There is so much advice about parenting out there, much of which contradicts this truth. But we have to decide who we are going to believe—God or man!

This is a subject that deserves so much more space than I can give here, but there are many good parenting books out there written from a biblical perspective. Some good ones are: Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman and Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting by Paul Tripp (especially good for parents of teens and pre-teens). Another good one for parenting teens is Get Outta My Face!: How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne.

If you are dealing with children who are angry, two of my go-to resources in counseling are: The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Chldren and Getting a Grip: The Heart of Anger Handbook for Teens, both by Lou Priolo.

The Heart of Anger is written to parents and includes journals and other helps to work with your children. But it first helps parents better understand what they may be doing to contribute to their children’s anger.

As parents we are warned in Ephesians 6.4:

… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

So before Lou delves into the child’s behavior, he helps parents evaluate their own heart attitudes and behavior. His list of 25 ways parents provoke their children to anger is worth the price of the book.

25 Ways That Parents Provoke Their Children to Anger*  Continue reading

“When a Friend Betrays Us” April 6

 

When a Friend Betrays Us - Have you been betrayed by a close friend? Most of us have. It hurts when a friend gossips or fails to be there when we need them. What can we learn from David about how to respond? And why does what comes naturally only deepen our pain?Have you been betrayed by a close friend? Most of us have. It hurts when a friend gossips or fails to be there when we need them. What can we learn from David about how to respond? And why does what comes naturally only deepen our pain?

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 1 & 2
Psalm 41.1-13
Proverbs 13.15-16
Luke 8.26-56

 

When a Friend Betrays Us

 

Psalm 41.1-13:

My Own Familiar Friend

 

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me (v. 9).

Like David, we have, probably, all had a “familiar friend” who has betrayed us. Betrayal hurts. It hurts when someone we trusted gossips about us. It hurts when a friend we counted on turns away when we need her most.

But like David, we can choose how we respond. We should start by turning to God.

David prayed, “But You, O Lord, be merciful to me, and raise me up” (v. 10).

Jesus raised the bar even further. He commanded us:

“… love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven ….” (Matt. 5.44-45).

How we respond when we are wounded whether by a friend or a perceived enemy says a lot about our spiritual maturity.

How do I respond? How do you respond? Are we able to bless those who spitefully use us? Or do we respond in anger and unforgiveness? The latter is easy. It comes naturally. And our sinful hearts will allow us to feel downright justified with anger and bitterness. But look at our Proverbs reading to see why these questions are so important.

 

Proverbs 13.15-16:

The Easy Way Turns Out to Be the Hard Way

 

y chart

Verse 15 says, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.”

Yesterday I referred to this verse when I said, “Life gets hard when we decide we can make our own rules.” Responding with sinful anger, bitterness, criticism or gossip seems like the easy way to go. It comes naturally to our sin nature.

On the other hand, responding in a godly way seems hard at first. But as we travel down each of those roads, what seemed easy becomes the hard road as we suffer the consequences of our sin. And what seemed like the difficult choice becomes easier, because God is at work (Matt. 11.28-30, Gal. 6.7-10). See the Y-chart above and my post “Responding to Difficult People” for a more complete explanation of this passage.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Joshua 1 & 2:

Be Strong and of Good Courage!

 

Moses has died and Joshua has just assumed the leadership of God’s people. Some of God’s first instructions to the new leader were “Be strong and of good courage!”—not just once, but repeatedly (vv. 6, 7, 9).

That advice is for us today, as well. Whatever God has called us to do, He’ll give us the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to do as long as we rely on Him.

 

Do a Heart Check

 

Do a Heart CheckThen verse 8 says:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (1.8).

We love the promises of God like “you will have good success,” but so many of God’s promises are conditional. In this passage God lists three conditions:
1) “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,” 2) “you shall meditate in it day and night,” and 3) “observe to do according to all that is written in it.” “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

How much time to you spend reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word? Do you meditate, think deeply about, its great truths and instructions? Is it in your mouth? Or is your mouth filled with complaining, criticizing and condemning? Are you a doer of the Word or just a hearer?

God is faithful to His promises and there are many kindnesses that God extends His children just because of His mercy and grace. He never treats us as we deserve, but like any good parent He expects us to be growing and becoming more like Christ. That requires faithful, grace-empowered obedience on our part.

 

Luke 8.26-56:

Changed or Not?

 

What a great story about the Gadarene demoniac! The man ran around naked, lived in the tombs and was so violent chains couldn’t hold him. But once he had a genuine encounter with Jesus, he was changed (v. 35)!

Even though we are not saved by our works, genuine salvation will produce good works. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit” (Lk. 6.43-45). How has your life changed since becoming a believer? Or has it?

You may be religious. You may have attended church all your life. You may believe in God. You may even be a “good” person by the world’s standards.

But religion can’t save you.

And looking “good” on the outside while your heart is far from God will only make you prideful and self-righteous.

The only path to salvation is a relationship with the living God through His Son Jesus Christ. We must believe the Gospel: recognize that we are sinners without any ability to save ourselves, that Jesus is who He said He was, that He lived a sinless life, died on a cross as payment for our sins, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father. We must put our trust in what He did on our behalf instead of ourselves and surrender our lives to His lordship.

 

What about you?

If you’re not sure about your relationship with Him, cry out to Him. Confess your sins, tell Him you believe, and surrender your life to Him. You can do it right now: in your living room, in your office, or anywhere you are.

If you do, seek out a Christian friend or a pastor. Tell them of your decision. Then find a good Bible teaching church and start your new life in Him. Contact me in the comments section below and I’ll be glad to help you or answer any questions.

And if you are a believer, look back at our reading in Joshua and consider the questions I posed there. How much time do you spend reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word? Do you meditate—think deeply about—its great truths and instructions? Is it in your mouth? Or is your mouth filled with complaining, criticizing and condemning? Are you a doer of the Word or just a hearer?

And what about your response to our reading in Psalm 41? How do you respond when wounded by someone? Do you respond with blessings or do you respond in anger, unforgiveness, and vengeance?

Do a heart check. How has your life changed since becoming a believer? I hope you’ll share your testimony and your struggles.

Changed by His grace,
Donna


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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.

“Are you trying to make minimum payments on sin?” February 9

 

Are you trying to make minimum payments on sin? - The Old Testament sacrificial system only provided a temporary covering for sin, like making minimum payments on our sin debt. Even though we no longer sacrifice bulls or lambs, many of us live much the same way, thinking a good deed here or showing up at church once in a while will keep the Creditor off our backs. Only to have the interest, the guilt and consequences of sin, pile up. But there is good news ...Are you trying to make minimum payments on sin?

 

The Old Testament sacrificial system only provided a temporary covering for sin, like making minimum payments on our sin debt. Even though we no longer sacrifice bulls or lambs, many of us live much the same way, thinking a good deed here or showing up at church once in a while will keep the Creditor off our backs. Only to have the interest, the guilt and consequences of sin, pile up. But there is good news …

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 29 & Exodus 30
Psalm 20.6-9
Proverbs 7.6-23
Matthew 25.1-30

 

“Are you trying to make minimum payments on sin?”

 

Exodus 29 & 30

The Final Sacrifice

 

Imagine … this Sunday morning before going in to worship, you have to stop outside the church and sacrifice a bull, then take some of the blood and put it on the altar with your finger and pour the rest of it on the altar. Afterwards you take the fat that covers the intestines, the fatty part of the liver, and the two kidneys and burn them. Then you take the bull’s waste, the skin, and the rest of the flesh out in the parking lot to be burned! All this after baking bread, having oil poured on your head, and taking a ritual bath! (And you thought just getting the family out of the house was hard!)

It’s a funny picture, but a serious subject. Why would God require all of that? And why would He want us to understand? Continue reading

“Betrayal!” January 23

 

Betrayal, Wrong Roads & Swallowing CamelsHow do you respond to betrayal? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Do you view it through the sovereignty of God or simply through your feelings?

And what about wrong roads, have you ever asked yourself, how did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted my life to end up. Or have you ever gotten so focused on straining out gnats in your life (or someone else’s) that you swallowed a camel?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 45 & 46
Psalm 12.3-4
Proverbs 4.14-17
Matthew 15.1-20

 

Betrayal!

 

Genesis 45 & Genesis 46:

Understanding the Sovereignty of God

 

A great famine has brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. He recognized them immediately, but they have no idea who he is. Remember he was only a youth when they sold him to slave traders. Now he looks like any other Egyptian official.

Joseph has been testing them, perhaps to see if they’ve changed, but he can stand it no longer:

¹Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence (45.1-3).

What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.

14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him (45.14-15).

The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible).

And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (45.4-8).

Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him. There were ten of them—older and stronger. They had thrown him into a pit. Imagine the terror of overhearing them arguing about whether or not to kill him and what they would tell their father. Later we learned that he pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t hear it (Gen. 45.21). The text says:

“And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming” (Gen. 37.25).

They sat down to have lunch while they debated his fate!

Then there was the long journey to Egypt. Did he hope they might change their minds and come after him? But no rescue. When he arrived in Egypt, was he put on an auction block?

At some point, Joseph must have made a decision to make the most of his circumstances and the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39.2). He served his master Potiphar well, rising to the job of chief steward, and was loyal even in the face of temptation. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Even there he was faithful and ended up being given a position of responsibility.

Even so, imagine the nights spent lying awake and wondering why? Why would his brothers do such a thing? Why would God allow it? When did he surrender it to God? We don’t know, but without a surrender he could not have responded as he did.

What do you do when someone has sinned against you? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Continue reading

“Scary Words: ‘I never knew you'” January 9

 

Scary Words, "I never knew you" - Jesus gave a pretty serious warning in Matthew 7 when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven ..." Are there people, sitting in church every Sunday, who believe they are headed for heaven when they're really in danger of hearing those words, "I never knew you, depart from me ..."? Read today's post to see what won't save us. Don't let pride or fear of what people might think keep you from seeking answers if you think that could be you!Jesus gave a pretty serious warning in Matthew 7 when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven …” There are people, sitting in church every Sunday, who believe they are headed for heaven when they’re really in danger of hearing those words, “I never knew you, depart from me …”

Read today’s post to see what won’t save us. Don’t let pride or fear of what people might think keep you from seeking answers if you think that could be you!

Also, read about the importance of removing the logs from our own eyes before we can be any help to others in “Judging Hearts & Log Removal,” what it really means to live “Life on the Rock,” about “God’s Favor,” “Our Higher Standard,” and from our Old Testament reading, “Why did Sarah laugh at the promise of God?”

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 17 & 18
Psalm 5.8-12
Proverbs 2.10-22
Matthew 7.1-29

 

Scary Words: “I never knew you”

 

Matthew 7.1-29:

Judging Hearts & Log Removal

 

logs

Verses 1-5 remind us of the dangers of judging the hearts and motives of others (although we are to judge sin and even, at times, to lovingly rebuke one another, more about that in a later commentary).

Verse 5 points out that we must first judge ourselves! We are to see the sins of others as specks in comparison to ours. Our sins are the “logs” or “planks” that keep us from seeing clearly!

 

I never knew you!

 

Verses 21-23 should serve as a serious warning to us:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”

This passage should remind us that there are many people sitting in churches who think they are right with God, but who Jesus says are in danger of hearing, “I never knew you!”

Believing in God, coming to church, reading your Bible, teaching in church, serving in ministry, taking sacraments, doing good works, prophesying (God spoke through pagans and even a donkey once so this is not a test of spirituality), casting out demons, and doing wonders cannot save you!  Continue reading