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 →
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?
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? 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?
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 →
“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 →
Imagine 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?
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 andremain 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.
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 →
Have 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.
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
God has given us a powerful weapon for overcoming evil. When we’re sinned against we want to fight back with anger, bitterness, gossip, withholding love and affection, and dozens of other sinful ways. But those are not the weapons God has commanded and empowered.
Today’s passage says:
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
These are coals of conviction. Love and kindness will often soften the hardest hearts. But no matter how the other person responds, God has commanded us to do good for them. And the promise that follows is, “the Lord will reward you.” Paul quoted this passage in Romans 12 when he said:
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.17-21).
We are not to be overcome by evil. In fact, we are commanded to overcome it! So how do we overcome evil?—with good! The love of God is the most powerful force in the world and it wins in the end!
Verse 13, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.”
God is not impressed with our “praise-the-Lords,” our Christian yard signs, or our involvement in religious activities. Neither is He impressed with our Bible knowledge or our pious-sounding prayers. Continue reading →
3.5b, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases.”
This verse emphasizes the importance of keeping sexual passions within the boundaries God has laid down. Whether we are married or single, it’s important to set godly standards of purity for ourselves and, if necessary, make ourselves accountable to godly friends.
Often times, we think that means simply not doing anything we see as sinful. But God’s standard is much higher, it is inner and outer holiness. Job said he had made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze at a virgin (Job 31.1). Continue reading →
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 →