“It’s not fair!” January 30

 

It's not fair!It’s not fair! Have you ever looked around at the lives of others and thought just that?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 9 & 10
Psalm 17.8-15
Proverbs 5.21-23
Matthew 20.1-16

 

It’s not fair!

 

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Unfair Labor Practices?

 

In “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” a businessman hires workers at various times throughout the day. At the end of the day, he pays the same wage to those who were hired just before quitting time as to those who worked all day. Some of them said, in effect, “It’s not fair!”

Have you ever felt like those laborers who were hired early in the morning? Perhaps, on the job or, possibly, in your spiritual life?

Maybe you were raised in church. Or maybe you were the “good” son or daughter, the one who didn’t rebel against your parents or your Christian upbringing. Or maybe you’ve been a believer for a long time, faithfully serving Him and there are things you’ve prayed about that haven’t happened.

Maybe you got a diagnosis you didn’t want or your spouse walked out on you? Then you see some new believer all excited because God has done something great for her!

Or maybe you’ve had a hard time accepting the fact that your “n’er-do-well” brother-in-law got saved after years of drug use and wild living and now everyone acts like he’s the golden boy! It hardly seems fair.

We can be so like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15.11-32). He was mad because his father forgave his wild younger brother and even threw a party when he came home (more about that when we get there).

But, if we’re honest, we might look back and admit that though we may not have “run off” into riotous living like the prodigal, there have been many times when our hearts were far from God, times we harbored bitterness and unforgiveness, times when we were selfish, manipulative, unkind and unloving. Instead of being upset over God’s grace in the lives of others, we need to get down on our knees and thank Him for His grace in ours.

And no matter what … even when it doesn’t seem fair to us, we can trust in the goodness of our sovereign God. A great book to help you understand His goodness and sovereignty in the midst of difficulty is the book It’s Not Fair! by Wayne Mack.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

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On Dogs & Sows

 

God is about to deliver His people from Israel, but so far Pharaoh has refused to let his cheap labor force leave Egypt.

Over and over he agrees to allow them to go, only to harden his heart when the “crisis” of each plague is over and the “pain” is not so intense (see Jan. 29 post, “Sleeping with Frogs”). Don’t we often do the same?  Continue reading

“Biology or Sin?” January 16

 

Gentlemen, excuse me for a minute while I talk to the ladies. Ladies, have you been guilty of using biology as an excuse to disobey the second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as you love yourself?

Rachel had stolen from her father and when he came looking for his property, she used the fact that it was “that time of the month” to cover her sin! Is it possible we do much the same thing in various ways?

Also, what was Jacob’s wrestling with God all about? Did Jacob “win” that wrestling match, why did he go away with a permanent limp, and what does it all mean? Why does God allow us to wrestle with Him in prayer sometimes?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 31 & 32
Psalm 8.6-9
Proverbs 3.19-20
Matthew 11.1-30

 

Biology or Sin?

 

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Traditions & Unburned Bridges

 

Today we’ll talk about Jacob and his divine wrestling match, but first, I want to comment on a couple of other passages.

Jacob has decided to take his two wives and his children and head home.

In 31.16-20 and we see these two sisters, Jacob’s wives, express belief in God, “… whatever God has said to you, do it.”

The next thing we know Rachel has stolen her father’s household gods before they head off (31.19)!

It seems so ridiculous that once she knew the truth she could think there was any power in something made by man’s hands! And yet, don’t we come up with our own man made solutions instead of waiting on and trusting God?

Maybe, she “kind of believed.” How else could she explain how Jacob prospered in spite Laban’s schemes?

Maybe she found it hard to leave behind her family “traditions”? Remember many of the pagan people believed in many gods, not just one. Maybe she didn’t want to “burn any bridges” with those other “gods.”

Again, what about us? Do we say we trust God on the one hand, but “not burn our bridges” on the other? What are you hanging on to “just in case”?

 

The Manner of Women

 

And this one’s for us, ladies:

Jacob had left without telling Laban. Now Laban returns home and finds Jacob and his daughters gone, along with his household god.  Continue reading

“Did God really say …?” January 2

 

Did God really say ...? - It started in the garden. The serpent tempted Eve first with a thought, "Did God really say ...?" The first step in his deception was to get her to doubt God and he's still whispering the same question today.It started in the garden. The serpent tempted Eve first with a thought, “Did God really say …?” The first step in his deception was to get her to doubt God and he’s still whispering the same question today.

Also read about the danger of thinking we’re smarter than God, the importance of honoring parents and some examples of fulfilled prophecy.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 3 & 4
Psalm 2.1-6
Proverbs 1.8-9
Matthew 2.1-23

 

Did God really say …?

 

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Another Voice

 

God had created the man and the woman and placed them in the garden to tend and keep it (2.15). He left them with just one commandment:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2.16-17).

But sadly, they would listen to another voice:

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’” (v. 3.1)

The New Living Translation says, “’Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’”

Nothing much has changed. The devil is still whispering the same questions today, trying to get us to doubt God’s Word, to believe He’s withholding something good from us, and get us to think we can decide what is right and wrong.

“Did God really say … that homosexuality is wrong?”

“Did God really say … that you should submit to your husband in everything? What if Continue reading

“The Second Death & A Righteous Judge” December 22

 

The Second Death & a Righteous Judge - Imagine your loved one had been struck and killed by a drunk driver. And now that driver is standing before the judge. He's sober now, but he’s haughty and unrepentant, even defiant. How would you feel if the judge said, “It’s OK. You’re free to go. No big deal”? You wouldn’t think he was good. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a righteous judge. In reality, that driver would be worthy of death. But would a death sentence be the worst that could happen? Is there actually more than one kind of death?Imagine your loved one had been struck and killed by a drunk driver. And now that driver is standing before the judge. He’s sober now, but he’s haughty and unrepentant, even defiant. How would you feel if the judge said, “It’s OK. You’re free to go. No big deal”? You wouldn’t think he was good. You certainly wouldn’t think he was a righteous judge. 

In reality, that driver would be worthy of death. But would a death sentence be the worst that could happen? Is there actually more than one kind of death?

 

Today’s Readings:
Nahum 1-3
Psalm 145.17-21
Proverbs 30.16
Revelation 12.1-17

 

The Second Death & a Righteous Judge

 

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Patient, Merciful & Righteous

 

Chapter 1.3, 7 sum up this book:

3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And will not at all acquit the wicked.

7 The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.

God is patient and merciful (“slow to anger”). His desire is that all would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.4).

But He can’t be good and be a liar. He can’t be a righteous judge and give evil a pass (“acquit the wicked”). There is a debt to be paid for sin in the court of heaven. For those who put their faith and trust in what Christ did on the cross, it has been paid in full, but for those who reject the truth, the penalty is death.

But physical death is not the end. We will all live forever. The question is … “Where?”

Death is separation. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden they were separated from God. They no longer had the spirit to Spirit communion with Him they had enjoyed. They didn’t die physically, at least not immediately, though they would since they were, also, barred from eating from the tree of life.

As their children, we are all born spiritually dead and unless Jesus returns before then, we will die physically.

But there is a second death (Rev. 2.11), Continue reading

“Your Thoughts Run Your Life” October 22

 

your thoughts run your lifeWhat do you think about? What hurts are you nursing? What disappointments? What cares? Will you let Jesus come into those broken places or will you let your thoughts run your life?

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 29 & 30
Psalm 119.41-48
Proverbs 27.19
1 Timothy 1.1-20

 

Your Thoughts Run Your Life

 

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Are wrong thoughts running your life?

“As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”

The heart is mentioned 830 times in Scripture, referring to the inner man. It’s who we are—our mind, our will, our emotions, our intellect.

Proverbs 4.23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.”

And the NASB says:

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

But the NCV says it even plainer:

“Be careful what you think, your thoughts run your life.”

What are you allowing into your heart? What thoughts are you allowing to simmer there? What video tapes are you replaying for yourself, instead of thinking as God wants you to think?

Thoughts are not harmless. What we read and watch is not harmless. Guard your heart with all diligence!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

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An Incurable Affliction

Chapter 30 contains one of the most descriptive pictures of the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel, followed by God’s amazing promise. It’s also a picture of our spiritual condition apart from Christ and the redemption He purchased for us at the cross. Think about each phrase as you reread it: Continue reading

“Follow Your Heart … Not!” October 14

 

Follow Your Heart

The world says, “follow your heart.” But the Bible has something entirely different to say about the heart. Also read about God’s discipline of His children, godly friendship, and how Paul handled the need to offer constructive criticism.

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 13 & 14
Psalm 118.15-20
Proverbs 27.9
1 Thessalonians 1.1-10

 

Follow Your Heart … Not!

 

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Profitable for Nothing

In chapter 13 God used an object lesson to illustrate the filthy spiritual condition of the people. He had the prophet bury a dirty sash (probably an undergarment) in a hole instead of washing it. He was instructed to leave it there until it began to rot. Then in verse 10 God said:

“This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.”

Their sin and rebellion had rendered them useless to God!

These people thought since they were God’s people, that they could live any way they wanted. They could “follow the dictates of their own hearts.”

Today, one message the world sends is “follow your heart,” but another passage in Jeremiah says:

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jer. 17.9 NLT).

So our wicked hearts tell us we are OK with God because we had some experience, prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, got baptized, or became the member of a certain church. Our ticket to heaven has been punched. So we …

… act selfishly at home with our spouses and children.

… make work or friends or children or a hundred other things a higher priority than our personal relationship with God.

… drink to excess, feel justified in our anger, refuse to forgive, or dozens of other things that God says are sin.

When we do, we, too, become just like Jeremiah’s sash—“profitable for nothing”! We negate our testimonies, especially in the eyes of the people closest to us. “Following the dictates of our own heart” is our own undoing!

As I read back through this passage and thought about this post, I remembered a comment that Michele Morin made last year about Elisabeth Elliot. I tried to find the quote, but I didn’t succeed. Maybe Michele will remember and share it with us. 🙂 It had to do with being able to trust our own hearts more as we matured in Christ.

I believe that lines up with Psalm 37.4 which says God will give us the desires of our hearts. This verse is often misunderstood to mean God gives us whatever we want. But let’s look at it in context:  Continue reading

“How do we grow in holiness?” October 7

 

How do people end up pulled down into so much darkness? How does a habitual liar become one? And by contrast how do we grow in holiness?How do people end up pulled down into so much darkness? How does a habitual liar become one or any other life dominating sin become a way of life? And by contrast how do we grow in holiness?

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 65 & 66
Psalm 116.1-4
Proverbs 26.28
Philippians 2.1-30

 

How do we grow in holiness?

 

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Walking in Sin or Growing in Holiness

“A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

Lies hurt people! But an outright lie is not the only way to “lie.”

When we deceive or when we twist the truth to suit our purposes or to justify our behavior or to make ourselves look good or to gain sympathy, it’s lying just as surely as if we make up a tale out of whole cloth.

An even bigger problem with lying is that, like all sin, it leads to more lying and more sin of every kind. Paul said that lawlessness leads to further lawlessness (Rom. 6.19).

As we see here in Proverbs 26.28, lying is a form of hatred. 1 John 2.11 says:

“But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Just as all sin leads us into darkness, that darkness affects our ability to think and reason and make clear decisions, “the darkness has blinded [our] eyes.”

Pre-marital and extra-marital sex, for example, often affects people’s ability to recognize a bad, even dangerous, relationship.

Drunkards and addicts are often blinded to their problems. Many will say, “I can quit any time I want,” while they destroy their careers, their families, and their reputations.

Angry people often feel completely justified in their anger and abuse. Everyone else is to blame.

And just as sin leads to more sin and blindness, when we turn to God and walk in obedience, it leads to a growth in holiness. Romans 6.18-19:

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

 

How do people end up pulled down into so much darkness? How does a habitual liar become one? And by contrast how do we grow in holiness?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

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He found me!

Verse 1, “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by My name.”

We often say, “I found God,” but the truth is, it’s always Him who “finds” us!  Continue reading

“Sin Now … Ask Forgiveness Later” October 3

 

sin now and ask forgiveness later

The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can go ahead and sin even though we know it’s wrong, then we can ask God to forgive us and that’s all there is to it! But that’s rebellion against God and you can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time. But there’s an even bigger problem with this kind of thinking.

Also read about chocolate covered dirt, foolish talk and dirty jokes.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 57 & 58
Psalm 114.1-8
Proverbs 26.22
Ephesians 5.1-15

 

Sin Now … Ask Forgiveness Later

 

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Abusing God’s Patience & Mercy

In chapter 57 God, through the prophet, is rebuking his people for their continued turning to and reliance on false gods. God poses the question, “Is it not because I have held My peace from of old that you do not fear Me?” We might say it this way, “Do you keep sinning because I haven’t been hard enough on you?”

Is that true of us? Do we abuse God’s patience and mercy by thinking we can live any way we want and believing He isn’t going to deal with sin and faithlessness? Hebrews 3.13 says:

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

The deceitfulness of sin tells us that we can sin now and ask forgiveness later, even though we know it’s wrong, as if asking for forgiveness involves some magic incantation or get out of jail free card. That’s rebellion against God and His Word. You can’t be both rebellious (determined to go your own way) and repentant (willing to go God’s way) at the same time.

Sometimes we understand the choice to sin will have consequences. Yet we can be like a stubborn, rebellious child, determined to do it anyway and just “take our licks.” The problem is that, while we can choose to sin, we don’t get to choose our consequencesContinue reading

“Whatever is not done in faith … is SIN” August 15

 

Whatever is not done in faith ... is SIN - Even if something is not sinful, in and of itself, if we believe it is, and do it anyway, it reveals a heart that is willing to sin against God.st 15" >Even if something is not sinful, in and of itself, if we believe it is, and do it anyway, it reveals a heart that is willing to sin against God.

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 21 & 22
Psalm 96.1-6
Proverbs 23.6-8
Romans 14.1-23

 

Whatever is not done in faith … is SIN

 

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Whatever Is Not of Faith

 

Christians and alcoholst 15" >One person believes she is free to have a glass of wine with dinner. Another believes it is a sin. One believes it is OK to eat pork. Another believes the Old Testament dietary laws should still be adhered to. One believes a certain book, or movie, or TV show is allowable; another’s conscience is offended by it. One thinks “Christian contemporary music” is great, another believes worship has to be hymns.

Certainly, there are lifestyle choices which are clearly right and wrong, sinful and good, but there is also a great deal of freedom in Christ. Whatever we do, however, we need to be able to do it in faith:

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (v. 23).

Even if something is not sinful, in and of itself, if we believe it is and do it anyway, it reveals a heart that is willing to sin against God and is, therefore, sinful.

One of the key points in this chapter, though, is that we should be willing to forego things we believe we are free to do, if what we are doing could be offensive or a stumbling block to someone else (). Love considers the welfare of others above his or her own (Phil. 2.3-4).

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

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What did you do about my son?

 

In chapter 21 Job tried to convince his friends that their conclusion about his suffering was wrong. He reasoned that because the wicked are not always punished in this life, they couldn’t say good is always rewarded and evil always punished. He pointed out that, at times, even people who shake their fist at God seem to do so with impunity.  Continue reading

“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming …” June 25

 

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming ... Reading through the Bible is a great goal and worth persevering through. To quote that great philosopher Dory, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim, swim.” That's true with many other areas of life, as well, not because we're swimming on our own or reliant on our own strength, but because the Christian life requires perseverance and faithfulness.ne 25" >Reading through the Bible is a great goal and worth persevering through. To quote that great philosopher Dory, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim, swim.”

That’s true with many other areas of life, as well, not because we’re swimming on our own or reliant on our own strength, but because the Christian life requires perseverance and faithfulness.

It includes our parenting which we’ll talk a little more about today, in particular, about sharing our testimony with our children in ways that are reasonably transparent, yet wise. It also includes our willingness to check our hearts, repent and turn away from sin lest we end up on a downward spiral of sin and consequences.

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Chronicles 13 & 14
Psalm 78.1-11
Proverbs 19.20-21
Acts 7.22-43

 

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming …

 

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The Horrible Consequences of Sin

God allows us to see the men and women He uses with all their warts and failings:

Verse 14.3, “Then David took more wives in Jerusalem, and David begot more sons and daughters.”

Remember kings had been specifically commanded not to take multiple wives (Deut. 17.17). Even though God allowed him to do so, He didn’t condone it. And the history of his life and family reveals the horrible consequences, including: infighting, jealousy, incest, and murder. So don’t be tempted to think the men and women in the Bible somehow got a pass on sin.

As a pastor friend of ours used to say, “You can choose to sin, but you don’t get to choose the consequences.”

Someone else has said:

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay”– unknown

 

Reasonably Transparentne 25" >:

Reasonably Transparent

The title of this psalm is “A Contemplation of Asaph.” A contemplation is “something to think about.”

Verse 4 reminds the people to tell their children the stories of their history and what God had done. Verses 6-7:

That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;

We, too, should tell our stories to our children, being “reasonably” transparent about our own mistakes. I say “reasonably” transparent because they don’t need all the gory details. Make sure what you share is age appropriate.

We should remind them of God’s grace, mercy, and blessings in our lives, even though in may cases, He allowed us to suffer the consequences of our foolish or sinful behavior.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 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 (Gal. 6.7-8).

Share the grace and mercy of God in saving you and setting your feet on the right path.

We should be transparent, too, when we sin or have sinned against them in some way, either directly or indirectly by arguing or acting selfishly in front of them. We should be willing to admit our sins and seek their forgiveness.

A Word of Caution

I’d like to offer a word of caution about sharing your past with your children. First ask yourself about your own attitude toward Your sinful past. Kevin Johnson who co-wrote The Peacemaker Student Edition says:  Continue reading