“What do you see?” May 7

 

What do you see? One kind of vision leads to greater faith in God the other leads to fear, worry and doubt.What do you see? One kind of vision leads to greater faith in God the other leads to fear, worry and doubt.

Our Proverbs reading reminds us that even the thoughts of an evil man or woman are an abomination to God, because, as Matthew Henry says, “thoughts are words to God.” Think about that! Thoughts are words to God!

Thoughts come, even ungodly ones at times, but what do we do with them? Do we take them and consider them, look at them from different angles, or do we reject those that are not pleasing to Him? What are you saying to God with your thoughts?

A thought, like a bird, may come and land on your head, but you don’t have to let it build a nest!

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 16 & 17
Psalm 57.4-11
Proverbs 15.26
Luke 23.26-56

 

What do you see?

 

1 Samuel 16 & 17:

What God Sees

 

Verse 16.7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'”

God doesn’t look at outward appearances, nor at the amount of education, nor financial or social status, nor great beauty. He looks at the heart!

Make it your ambition to please God with your life (2 Cor. 5.9). Do what you have to do to make yourself available to serve Him. Ask Him to give you the right heart attitude and He will do mighty things. You do your part and He will do His. In fact, it’s His grace that enables us to even do “our part.”

 

What We Should See

 

Chapter 17 recounts the familiar story of David and Goliath.

Verse 24, “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.”

But the young man David saw things differently:

Verse 26b, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

The other men looked at their size in relation to the size of the giant, but David looked at the giant in relation to the size of His God!

How do you see your problems? Do you see them in relation to God or do you see yourself in relation to your problems? One way leads to greater faith in God the other leads to fear, worry and doubt.  Continue reading

Handling Emotions Biblically + LINKUP

 

Handling Emotions Biblically - Emotions are real and part of being human. In fact, God created us as emotional beings. But problems result when we allow our emotions to control our thoughts, words, and actions. When that happens, we can quickly end up in a ditch, spiritually and relationally.

Today we’re beginning a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” I hope you’ll be here over the next few weeks while we look at emotions, how they affect us, and how we can handle them God’s way.

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Emotions Biblically: Introduction

 

We just wrapped up a series on God’s design for marriage. If you missed it, you can access all the lessons here. Today we’re starting a new series on how to handle emotions so we don’t allow emotions to handle us.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing:

Anger
Depression
Guilt
Fear & Worry
Trials & Suffering

 

Emotions

 

They’re real. They’re often powerful. They’re, also, part of being human.

God Himself is described as having emotions.

The psalmist said, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7.11b) and another psalm says, He laughs at His enemies (Ps. 2.4).

Genesis 6.6 says, “ And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”

Numerous times we’re told God is a jealous God (Ex. 20.5; Josh. 24.10).

But He, also, has compassion on His servants (Ps. 135.14; Jud. 2.18; Deut. 32.36).

And He rejoices over His people (Zeph. 3.17).

We know that Jesus wept (Jn. 11.35) over sin and it’s results on His creation.

Isaiah said he was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53.3).

And Mark 6:34 says He had compassion on the multitudes who listened to Him.

That doesn’t mean God’s emotions and ours are always the same. When God expresses emotions, they are perfectly just and righteous, never sinful. He never has a bad day and He never changes His feelings toward His redeemed.

 

Lousy Leaders

 

Emotions like anger and fear often come with powerful feelings. Feelings that tend to control how we treat people, how we respond to the tests and trials of life, and whether or not we obey God.

While the feelings themselves are not always sinful, if they’re not dealt with in a biblical way, they can quickly become so.

While emotions are real and often powerful, they’re lousy leaders. When we allow our emotions to control our thoughts, words, and actions, we can end up in a ditch.  Continue reading

“The Battle for Truth & Religious Liberty” April 29

 

The Battle for Truth & Religious Liberty - Today the battle for truth and religious liberty is raging. Truth has become relative. God's Word carries no authority for the majority of the people in our nation and much of the Western World. So what can we do to prepare ourselves for the continuing battle?Today the battle for truth and religious liberty is raging. Truth has become relative. God’s Word carries no authority for the majority of the people in our nation and much of the Western World.

Christians are being denied jobs or realizing they can no longer work in their chosen fields without compromising their religious convictions. Those who speak up for what is morally right are called bigoted, intolerant or worse.

We need to be careful about putting our hope in any changes in government or leadership to protect us. While there might be a temporary slowing of the process, I believe in the long run these trends will continue, perhaps faster than we think possible. Just look at how things have changed in the last five years.

So what can we do to prepare ourselves for the continuing battle?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ruth 3 & 4
Psalm 52.6-9
Proverbs 15.6-7
Luke 20.1-26

 

The Battle for Truth & Religious Liberty

 

Luke 20.1-26:

By What Authority?

 

Verses 1-2, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

Today the words may be different, but the heart attitude is the same.

“What right do you have to impose your religious beliefs on me? I can live anyway I please!”

“Who do you think you are? You have no right to refuse your services to me!”

 

The Battle for Truth & Religious Liberty

 

Today the battle for truth and religious liberty is raging. Truth has become relative. Much like what we just finished reading in the book of Judges, everyone believes they’re free to decide what’s right for them. God’s Word carries no authority for the majority of the people in our nation and much of the Western World.

Christians in the scientific community and in the world of academics have been discredited, marginalized, refused positions, and fired for expressing their beliefs.

Christians are now being attacked and made an example of in the market place. There have even been attempts to intimidate pastors who speak out about homosexuality and gay marriage. Sadly, I believe we can expect these trends to continue in the long run and pick up speed.

If you’ve listened to the news in recent months, you know even free speech itself is being attacked in the very institutions that have traditionally stood for the free exchange of ideas. Students on university campuses are rioting to prevent the expression of opinions and ideas with which they disagree. And those who oppose them are afraid to speak up for fear of becoming targets themselves.

 

What If It’s Us?

 

How should we respond if (or perhaps, more accurately, when) we find ourselves in the cross hairs of this intolerant culture? The book of 1 Peter has some things to say on that subject.  Continue reading

“Don’t lose heart, cave in or give up!” March 25

 

Don't lose heart, cave in or give up! - Do you feel discouraged in some area? Feel like caving in or giving up? Don't lose heart! God is faithful. Wait on Him.Do you feel discouraged in some area? Feel like caving in or giving up? Don’t lose heart! God is faithful. Wait on Him.

 

Today’s Readings:
Deuteronomy 11 & 12
Psalm 37.18-22
Proverbs 12.12
Luke 2.1-24

 

Don’t lose heart, cave in or give up!

 

Deuteronomy 11 & 12:

Don’t Lose Heart

 

There is so much worth commenting on in these two chapters but let’s focus on 11.16 which says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.” Maybe you’re feeling discouraged about something, maybe even thinking about giving up.

Maybe you have been trying to walk with the Lord, trying to read your Bible, trying to grow and be the husband or wife, father or mother God has called you to be. Maybe you have been waiting for your husband, your wife, or someone else to come to know the Lord. Maybe you have been waiting for God to answer some other prayer. Continue reading

“Disorder, Self-Sufficiency & Over-Commitment” March 2

 

Disorder, Self-Sufficiency & Over-Commitment - Do you struggle with disorder, over-commitment, and self-sufficiency? Do you ever feel like God isn't taking care of things on your schedule? Could your frustration and stress stem from a common problem?Do you ever feel like God isn’t taking care of things according to your schedule? Could your frustration and stress stem from a common problem? Do you struggle with disorder, over-commitment, and self-sufficiency?


Today’s Readings:
Numbers 1 & 2
Psalm 29.7-11
Proverbs 10.26-29
Mark 7.14-37

 

Disorder, Self-Sufficiency & Over-Commitment

 

Numbers 1 & 2:

Make no decision without prayer!

 

Well, we’re into a new month and a new book.

As I read these two chapters I couldn’t help thinking that God is a God of order. He specified who was to lead each tribe, where each tribe was to camp and even the order in which they were to break camp when they moved. He gave “the who, the where, and the how” of it all. And we know from other passages that He also told them “when.”

In Mark 6 when Jesus fed the 5,000, He had them sit down in an orderly way, “… He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties” (Mk. 6.39-40).

Like most of you, I never seem to have enough time to do everything I want or think I should be doing. That can easily lead to disorder in my life. It’s easy to forget Continue reading

“Can God redeem YOUR past?” January 19

 

Can God redeem your past? - Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren't part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today's reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren’t part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today’s reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.

Our New Testament reading talks about the heart. What kind of heart do you have? Is it hard, stony, full of thorns, or is it good ground?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 37 & 38
Psalm 9.11-20
Proverbs 3.31-35
Matthew 13.1-30

 

Can God redeem your past?

 

Genesis 37 & Genesis 38:

Here comes that dreamer!

 

I continue to be blessed by our time in the book of Genesis—the book of Beginnings. I pray that this journey is as fascinating and enjoyable, as well as, practical and enlightening for you as it always is for me. I never tire of these stories. There is so much new to learn every time we walk with our spiritual ancestors.

Here in chapter 37 we have another seemingly sad story with which many of us can relate. There’s Joseph, Jacob’s son by Rachel, his “first love.” His father openly shows favoritism to the boy creating a great deal of resentment with the ten older brothers.

Although Jacob’s behavior was wrong, their attitudes were clearly sinful, as well. Even when we’re sinned against, God holds each of us responsible to respond in a godly way, these boys, definitely, did not!

This story is a good reminder to us that our preferential treatment of one child often does great damage to their relationships and can actually lead to that child being estranged from his or her siblings.

Joseph adds to the problem by sharing some dreams. Remember when the brothers saw him coming they said, “Here comes that dreamer!” Though the dreams would prove to be prophetic, pointing to a time when he would be exalted over his family, it wasn’t wisdom for him to share them.

It brings to mind a verse in the New Testament about Mary and her infant Son. It says:

“And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2.18-19).

Sometimes when God shows us something, we need to ponder it in our own heart and be selective about sharing it.

Perhaps she had learned that lesson earlier. Imagine what would have happened if Mary had gone around telling people she was pregnant with the Son of God. Even Joseph found it impossible to believe, until God spoke directly to him.

 

Redeeming the Past

 

Tomorrow’s reading and the remainder of Genesis will pick up the story of Jacob’s family with Joseph as the central character, but here in chapter 38 we have the story of Judah and Tamar. This story can be hard to understand without some cultural background.

The story centers around a custom called the levirate marriage where a close family
member, especially a single brother, would marry a widow to produce an heir for a dead brother who had died childless. It had both practical and spiritual significance. Continue reading

“The Whole Counsel of God” December 10

 

Does your church teach the whole counsel of God? - Do you attend a church that is teaching God's Word in its entirety, the full counsel of God, or just the easy to swallow parts ... those that don't make you uncomfortable?Do you attend a church that is teaching God’s Word in its entirety, the full counsel of God, or just the easy to swallow parts … those that don’t make you uncomfortable?

 

Today’s Readings:
Hosea 11 & 12
Psalm 139.17-24
Proverbs 29.22
Jude 1-25

 

The Whole Counsel of God

 

Jude 1-25:

False Teachers & Our Own Hearts

 

The introduction to Jude in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says:

“This epistle is addressed to all believers in the gospel. Its design appears to be to guard believers against the false teachers who had begun to creep into the Christian church, and to scatter dangerous tenets, by attempting to lower all Christianity into a merely nominal belief and outward profession of the gospel. Having thus denied the obligations of personal holiness, they taught their disciples to live in sinful courses, at the same time flattering them with the hope of eternal life. The vile character of these seducers is shown, and their sentence is denounced, and the epistle concludes with warnings, admonitions, and counsels to believers.”

Jeremiah said our own hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17.9). They will lull us to sleep where nominal Christianity and sin are concerned. If that’s not dangerous enough, there are false teachers and others who preach a watered down version of truth that allows us to be comfortable in our sin, if not trust in outright error.

God is a God of grace and mercy and patience. But that doesn’t mean that we should get comfortable with our own sin. A heart that has truly been reborn by the Spirit of God is a heart with new desires and we need to grow those righteous desires by attending a church where the Word of God is being preached from cover to cover, not just the comfortable parts. We need to know and understand the whole counsel of God.

We also need to cultivate friendships with people who will encourage us to grow and change, not make it easier for us to remain spiritual babies. Proverbs 27.5-6:  Continue reading

“The Rapture & Uncle Levi” October 17

 

The RaptureImagine your family sitting around the dinner table one night and there is a knock at the door … and there stands “Uncle Levi,” whose funeral you had attended a few years before? And imagine what it will it be like a few seconds after the Rapture of the Church? What do those two scenarios have to do with each other?

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 19 & 20
Psalm 119.1-8
Proverbs 27.13
1 Thessalonians 4.1-18

 

The Rapture & Uncle Levi

 

1 Thessalonians 4.1-18:

The Rapture

The Rapture

Verses 15-18 speak of what is called the Rapture of the Church.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The word “rapture” means to be “caught up.” Paul said those who have died in Christ will rise first. So when Christ returns for His church, the bodies of believers who died previously, whose spirits are already in heaven, will be resurrected and changed. And those of us who are alive will be caught up and our bodies will be changed, as well.

There was a foretaste of this event right after Christ’s death in Matthew 27:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

So even though these resurrected believers would die again, it was a preview of what is to come in the future.

Can you just imagine what it must have been like—the family is sitting around having dinner and there’s a knock at the door … and there stands “Uncle Levi or Cousin Benjamin” who had died a few years before!

Now imagine what it will be like when the Rapture happens. The graves of the dead believers will be opened, but this time they’ll be gone, along with believers who were alive at the time of the Rapture!

I would imagine there will be more than a few family members who had rejected what their husbands and wives and mommas and brothers were telling them, who fall to their knees and cry out to God. It won’t be too late for them to be saved, but it will be too late for them to escape the Tribulation, seven years of famine, disease, earthquakes, disasters, and persecution the likes of which the world has never seen. We’ll talk more about this when we get to the book of Revelation.

Let’s pray and stand up for the truth now while there is still time for those who may listen.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Jeremiah 19 & 20:

Is the Word like fire in your bones?

Rather than believe the truth, the leaders of Jerusalem tried to intimidate Jeremiah into silence. Have you turned on the news lately? Sound familiar?

Even though Jeremiah was tempted to keep quiet, he said, “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (19.9).

Is that you? Are you so full of God’s Word that it’s like fire in your bones? So much so that you would risk mistreatment, persecution or death, as Jeremiah did?

 

Psalm 119.1-8:

Mind, Will, and Emotions

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and is an acrostic psalm. As it was written in the original Hebrew, it contains a literary device to drive home the truths contained in it—something like what we do when we say “A is for apple; B is for ball; … or when we use an acronym to help us remember the name of an organization.

While it’s long, it contains some of the greatest truths about God and His Word, beginning with verses 1-2: Continue reading

“I’m going to hell anyway!” October 16

 

going to hellHave you ever heard someone say, “I might as well live it up, I’m going to hell anyway?” Or maybe that’s you. No matter what you’ve done, God is willing and able to forgive you, but you must come to Him. Don’t let another day pass. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 17 & 18
Psalm 118.25-29
Proverbs 27.11-12
1 Thessalonians 3.1-13

 

I’m going to hell anyway!

 

Jeremiah 17 & 18:

God’s Faithfulness to Those Who Remain

Even in the midst of God’s judgment, verses 7 & 8 are true:

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

It’s important to remember that there were faithful believers among those who would soon be conquered and exiled, including Daniel and the other young men we read about in the book of Daniel. Even though their nation and their way of life suffered, God blessed and watched over His faithful remnant. Daniel would find favor in spite of plots against him and political and military upsets. He would, eventually, serve under eight pagan kings.

 

Our Deceitful Hearts

Verses 9 & 10 are two verses which we frequently share in counseling:

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

It’s so easy for us to believe that we know what’s going on in another person’s heart—what they’re thinking, what their motives are, what they’re going to do in a given situation. But the truth is we can’t even fully know our own hearts and we certainly cannot know someone else’s. Our own hearts can deceive us, causing us to believe we’re somehow “OK”—justified in our actions, even when we’re focused on ourselves and not the glory of our God.

We must constantly stay connected to God, asking Him to search our hearts and show us the sin and deceit that resides there.

 

“I’m going to hell anyway!”

Chapter 18.11-12:

11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD. “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.”’”
12 And they said, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart.”

We’ve all met people like that. They know what God’s Word says about the way they’re living, but they aren’t willing to do what God requires, so they just say, “I might as well live anyway I want, because I’m going to hell anyway!” 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!

 

Jeremiah 13 & 14:

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