“4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal” February 27

 

4 Way to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal - How's your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who's living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

How’s your spiritual curb appeal? How do you look from the outside? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of the One who’s living in you? If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we would come up short, how do we change that? Here are 4 ways to improve your spiritual curb appeal.

 

Today’s Readings:
Leviticus 23 & 24
Psalm 28.1-5
Proverbs 10.17-18
Mark 6.1-29

 

4 Ways to Improve Your Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Leviticus 23 & 24:

 

Does He really “occupy” your life?

 

As we continue reading through the book of Leviticus, I’m reminded that not only is “all Scripture” profitable to our everyday lives (1 Tim. 3.16-17), but we can begin reading anywhere and glean great, practical truths.

Leviticus 23 gives instructions concerning the feasts that Israel was to celebrate. These feasts acknowledged and helped them remember God’s sovereign work in their lives, just as Easter and Christmas should do for us.

That’s part of the tragedy with the commercialization of those holidays. Easter has become more about bunnies and eggs and less about Christ’s resurrection. Christmas is more about “what will I get” than remembering that the Creator of the Universe humbled Himself to be born in a stable, to be a little baby with dirty diapers, to grow to be a boy who respected and obeyed His parents, and finally, to be a man who was willing to be beaten, stripped and crucified for me and you!

Here in chapter 23, notice the feasts and the sacrifices involved food: meat and grain, oil and wine, things used in the preparation of a meal.

Remember that God repeatedly told His people He desired to dwell with them. In Revelation 3.20 Jesus said:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

1 Corinthians 6.19 says that we are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And in John 1.14 it says that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Old Testament feasts and sacrifices, in part, reminded them that the Creator God wanted to dwell with them.

That word “dwell” comes from a root word meaning “to tent or encamp, to occupy (as a mansion) or to reside as God did in the Tabernacle of old.”

His dwelling with us speaks of protection and communion.

The word “occupy” stood out to me. Does He really “occupy” your life? Have you allowed him to take over the whole mansion or is He expected to stay in the back room most of the time? Maybe He’s only with you on Sundays? Or maybe you’d say “no, He’s here all the time! I’m always talking about God and church!”

 

Spiritual Curb Appeal

 

Then the question becomes, how are you doing at living your life in a way that makes Him pleased to be there? Are you going places, watching things, reading things, listening to things or saying things that grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in you?

And how does His residence look to others? Real estate agents talk about curb appeal, how a home (or mansion) looks from the street. How do you look to others? How is your spiritual curb appeal? Do you live in a way that gives others the right opinion of God?

God wants a relationship with His people. He wants to live in us and through us so we can be salt and light to the world. What a privilege and what a responsibility! If some spiritual real estate agent evaluated your life and mine, how would we do? And if we came up short, how can we change that? Continue reading

“Journaling & Self-Examination” February 1

 

Journaling & Self-Examination - As January comes to an end and the second month of 2017 begins, many of us will be thinking about the goals and resolutions we made just a few weeks ago. We'll examine our progress (or lack of it) concerning a new diet, exercise plan or some other goal. And when it comes to our health, we get numerous examinations and tests to ensure we stay as healthy as we can. When we go to school, we take examinations to test our proficiency in those subjects. But how many of us take time to examine our lives spiritually?As January comes to an end and the second month of 2017 begins, many of us will be thinking about the goals and resolutions we made just a few weeks ago. We’ll examine our progress (or lack of it) concerning a new diet, exercise plan or some other goal.

And when it comes to our health, we get numerous examinations and tests to ensure we stay as healthy as we can. When we go to school, we take examinations to test our proficiency in those subjects. But how many of us take time to examine our lives spiritually?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 13 & 14
Psalm 18.13-19
Proverbs 6.6-11
Matthew 21.1-22

 

Journaling & Self-Examination

 

Exodus 13 & 14:

The Value of Memorials

 

lightstock communion sq

As the Lord delivered the Israelites out of their 430 years of slavery in Egypt, he gave them several things that were to act as memorials for them. First, was the Passover itself.

He, also, told them the first born of all their children and animals belonged to Him. They were to sacrifice the “clean” animals (more about that later) and were to redeem or offer another sacrifice in place of those animals not appropriate for sacrificing (13.13) and they were to offer sacrifices for their firstborn sons. This was to remind them of how the Lord had spared their sons and animals when He brought the final plague on Egypt.

As we continue with our Old Testament narrative, we will repeatedly see God instruct the Nation of Israel to set up memorials. We, too, need our own memorials. It’s so easy to forget what God has done for us and, instead, get focused on what we think He hasn’t done: the prayers He hasn’t answered our way or how He hasn’t blessed us like He has blessed someone else. We need to remind ourselves about the things from which He has already delivered us and the things He has done for us.

Even, if He never did another thing, we should remember the price He paid so our sins could be forgiven. That is the central focus of the Lord’s Supper, the New Testament counterpart to the Passover. It is a memorial to the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (emphasis mine)

 

Self-Examination

 

Memorials & Self-ExaminationAnother focus of the Lord Supper is to remind us to examine ourselves. In the Old Testament leaven or yeast represented sin. As the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt and each time they took the Passover, they were to examine themselves and see if there was sin in their lives. We, too, are to ask God to show us if there is unrepentant sin in our lives before we take the Lord’s Supper.

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Cor. 11, emphasis mine)

This isn’t the only time we should examine ourselves. The Psalmist prayed in Psalm 139:23-24Continue 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

“Does Salvation + Time + Knowledge = Spiritual Maturity?” November 9

 

Does salvation + time + knowledge = spiritual maturity? - Does salvation + time + knowledge = spiritual maturity? Does it come from years of church membership? From learning how to use Bible software or getting 10 devotionals in your in-box? Does it come with a degree in theology? Or from attending Bible studies week after week? If not, what does it take?Does salvation + time + knowledge = spiritual maturity? If not, where does is come from? From years of church membership? From learning how to use Bible software or getting 10 devotionals in your in-box? Does it come with a degree in theology? Or from attending Bible studies week after week? If not, what does it take?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 9 & 10
Psalm 121.1-8
Proverbs 28.16
Hebrews 5.1-14

 

Does Salvation + Time + Knowledge = Spiritual Maturity?

 

Hebrews 5.1-14:

Where does spiritual maturity come from?

 

Does Salvation + Time + Knowledge = Spiritual Maturity

Does it happen simply because we show up for church week after week? Or get baptized, learn how to use Bible software or start serving in church? Does it come from attending Bible studies or displaying a Christian bumper sticker?

It’s not to say any of those things are wrong or that they can’t happen as a result of spiritual maturity, but in themselves they don’t make a mature disciple of Christ. In fact, James 1 says if we’re hearers of the word and not doers, we delude ourselves (Jas. 1.22-25). Often that delusion concerns our own maturity and level of obedience. We think we’re “OK” because we do Christian things.

Going back to our Hebrews 5 passage, let’s read it in the New Living Translation:

11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

The writer of Hebrews was addressing those who “ought to be teaching others” because of their exposure to the Word and Christian experience. Instead they were still babies and needed milk.

But solid food, food that is fit for those who are spiritually mature, is for those who have trained themselves or practiced doing what God says. Spiritual maturity comes as a result of obeying the Word on a regular basis.

But before you can grow spiritually, you must be born spiritually (Jn. 3.3). Do you need to examine yourself to see if you are “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13.5)? Do you struggle with doubts about the genuineness of your relationship with God? Make sure you understand the gospel. Don’t let another day pass without having the assurance that you belong to Him.

If you know you belong to Him, could there be some area of life where you are blinded by hearing and not doing? We all need to pray regularly for God to help us avoid spiritual blind spots and if there is some area where you know you’ve not obeyed God, repent and ask for His forgiveness and grace. Then step out in obedience.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 9 & 10:

Marked by God

 

Even as God prepared to bring His judgment on the people, He commanded an angel to go out and put a mark on every person who loved and worshiped Him and who grieved over the spiritual condition of the nation, just as He did before the death angel passed over in Egypt.

The same is true today. All those who belong to Him, those who are born again by the Spirit of God, have His mark. Ephesians 1.13-14:

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

There will be a day of judgment for everyone. But sadly, there are many who look good on the outside, but because they don’t have a genuine relationship with the Lord are not sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Different + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Differednt -

Blended families are everywhere. Maybe your family is a blended or step-family. If so, you know blended families face unique challenges and issues. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those individuals and all families face.

 

Blended Families Part 2: “The Same Only Different”

 

In part 1, we talked about some of the very real losses that members of step families face and the importance of examining our own attitudes, actions and desires. Understanding those losses can help us become more understanding and asking God to help us examine our own actions is vitally important and an essential first step in the process of growth and change.

 

Charlatans & Frauds

 

Matthew 7.3-4 says:
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?(NLT)

Jesus was very descriptive in this passage, wasn’t He? My paraphrase is, “Who do you think you are, trying to get a speck out of someone else’s eye when you can’t see past that giant log in your own?” Then He starts the next verse with the words, “You hypocrite …!” (v. 5).

Two synonyms for the word hypocrite are charlatan and fraud. The Encarta Dictionary defines it as, “somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise.”

When we preach doing right to our family members and then respond in sinful, unloving ways, we’re playing the hypocrite! We’re frauds!

 

Why is this so important?

 

James, chapter 1:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

“Deceiving yourselves.” There is delusion, spiritual blindness, that occurs when we fail to examine our hearts and actions by looking into the mirror of God’s Word with a view to obeying it. We can respond selfishly and sinfully to others while believing we’re completely justified.

We face enough challenges in blended families, why add spiritual blindness to the list? But by looking into that mirror and being a doer of it, there is blessing.

And Hebrews 5 says:
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

We have the ability to discern good and evil; that is we have wisdom, when we practice doing what’s right. So the difference between removing our own logs and being a doer of the Word, as opposed to being a hearer and not a doer, is the difference between delusion and wisdom.

By the way, James, the writer of the book by the same name, was the half-brother of Jesus. There were other siblings, too (Mk. 6.3), and Joseph was His step-father. That makes Jesus part of a blended family. More about His earthly family and other blended Bible families later.

But there is something else we need to understand about being a hypocrite or a fraud. When we tell others, particularly our children and step-children, they must respond one way (loving, kind, accepting, patient, etc.) and we do something else, we’re completely discrediting ourselves and end up provoking our children to anger (Eph. 6.4; Col. 3.21). It’s hard to imagine anyone not resenting a fraud and children are no different.

 

Unique Yet the Same

 

In part 1, I stressed the fact that blended families face some unique challenges, and that’s certainly true. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those all individuals and all families face.  Continue reading

“How am I doing with the 2 great commandments?” September 1

 

How are you doing with the 2 great commandments? - Paul warned us of the importance of regularly examining ourselves and of the consequences when we don't!How am I doing with the 2 great commandments? Paul warned us of the importance of regularly examining ourselves and of the consequences when we don’t … sickness, problems, even early death. But how can we examine ourselves when our tendency is to justify our own actions and responses? Living in our sin-cursed world, how can we re-inform our consciences biblically so we are more sensitive to the sin in our lives? And in so doing, grow and change?

 

Today’s Readings:
Song of Solomon 1 & 2
Psalm 104.1-9
Proverbs 24.15-16
1 Corinthians 11.17-34

 

How am I doing with the 2 great commandments?

 

1 Corinthians 11.17-34:

Examining Ourselves

 

prayer trusting GodIn verses 27-32 Paul gives instructions for how we should approach the taking of the Lord’s Supper. He says that we should use it as an opportunity to examine ourselves to see if there is any unconfessed sin or unreconciled relationships in our lives.

If so, we should confess them to the Lord and repent. Repentance is more than regret or feeling sorry, it carries with it the idea of a turning from our way and going God’s way. Paul said that because we fail to examine ourselves, many in the body of Christ are sick and some sleep (have died prematurely).

Of course, communion isn’t the only time we should examine ourselves. It should be a regular part of our walk with the Lord.

When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus said the whole law and the prophets can be summed up in two commands: Love God and love others. If we’re loving God as we should, we won’t look for loopholes for disobedience. If we’re loving God as we should, obeying Him won’t be a burden, but a delight. That doesn’t mean our flesh will always like it, but our hearts will desire to please Him.

 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15).

But part of loving God is loving others.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 Jn. 4.20).

A good way to examine how well we are loving others is to study and meditate on 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 and ask, “How am I doing in each of these areas (remember our standard is Christ, not how we’re doing compared to someone else)?”

If you’re struggling in some relationship, it may be helpful to be specific. How did I do today or yesterday? How am I doing with my spouse, my children, my co-workers, strangers I encounter, other drivers …  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 1: “The Losses and the Gains”+ LINKUP

 

Blended Families: Part 1 "The Losses & the Gains" + LINKUP - Blended families—they're everywhere. Maybe your family is a blended or step-family. If so, you know blended families face unique challenges and issues. They also face the everyday problems of living with other sinners in a world that's been damaged by sin.

 

Blended Families Part 1: “The Losses and the Gains”

 

Blended families—they’re everywhere. Maybe your family is a blended or step-family. If so, you know blended families face unique challenges and issues. They also face the everyday problems of living with other sinners in a world that’s been damaged by sin.

When couples remarry after death or divorce, one or both may bring children from previous marriages into their new family unit. Sometimes there are children from multiple marriages and, even, other relationships outside of marriage.

They also bring different parenting styles, different traditions, different levels of spiritual maturity, and different expectations. Sometimes, those expectations can be unclear, even unrealistic.

Many of us grew up watching TV shows like The Brady Bunch and Step by Step where blended family issues could be handled during a 30-minute TV show. And engaged couples who’ve been struggling with single-parent issues like loneliness, financial difficulties, and the hazards of the dating scene can view remarriage as the answer to all their problems and be blind-sided by the reality of blending a family.  Continue reading

“Why me? Why now? Why my family?” August 11

 

why me

“Why me?” It’s a question that is often on our lips. Why is this happening? Why me? Why now? Why my kids, my family, my job, my health? But … are we asking the right questions?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 13 & 14
Psalm 94.12-19
Proverbs 22.26-27
Romans 11.1-18

 

Why me? Why now? Why my family?

 

Job 13 & 14:

Demanding Answers

 

In chapter 13, after strongly rebuking his friends, Job turns his attention directly to God. He is at a loss to understand why all this calamity has come on him. In chapter 14 he talks to God about the frailness of humanity and seems to prepare himself to die, perhaps even yearning for it.

Be sure to read MacArthur’s notes for today’s readings. He jumps ahead to some of the later chapters as he explains that Job’s problem was not the belief that he was righteous, as his friends thought, but his over-familiarity in demanding an answer to why he was suffering such hardship.

We, too, can be tempted to demand answers to our “whys.” While I don’t believe God is put-off by sincere questions from his hurting children, we need to remember that He is God and we are not! Isaiah 55.8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

In chapter 40 we will see Job’s reaction after God responded to all his why’s. He said, “I lay my hand over my mouth” (v. 4).

So what should we ask when going through a test or trial? Continue reading

“Suffering & Sin” August 8

 

Suffering & Sin - While we don’t know another’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, ... can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering?While we don’t know another’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering?

Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, are you being a good steward of this responsibility?

And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, or because they were raised in a Christian home, or because they have “always believed in God,” or they have been baptized, or taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 7 & 8
Psalm 92.8-15
Proverbs 22.17-21
Romans 9.1-15

 

Suffering & Sin

 

Job 7 & 8:

Soulcare

 

In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.

Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”

In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds but with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (1.1).

That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption
says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But we can respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, with denial, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or other sinful and self-defeating ways.

confronting comfortingAnd there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1-2).

 

How can we keep ourselves from being “overtaken in a trespass”?

 

How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sin?

Continue reading

“Could you be a contentious woman?” July 17

 

contentious woman

Could you be a contentious woman? Do you ever find yourself arguing for argument’s sake? Do you feel like it’s your job to point out the other side of the issue? Do you enjoy a good debate? Do you have to have the last word?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 30 & 31
Psalm 85.1-7
Proverbs 21.9-11
Acts 20.1-16

 

Could you be a contentious woman?

 

Proverbs 21.9-11:

If the shoe fits, ladies?

 

if the shoe fits contentious naggingVerse 9, “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

 

What is a contentious woman?

 

My thesaurus uses some of the following synonyms: controversial, debatable, arguable, touchy. The Encarta Dictionary defines her as, “frequently engaging in and seeming to enjoy arguments and disputes.”

Do you ever find yourself arguing for arguments sake? Do you feel like it’s your job to point out the other side of the issue? Do you enjoy a good debate? Do you have to have the last word?  Continue reading