“Beaten and Bruised?” December 27

 

Beaten & Bruised? - Do you feel beaten and bruised from raising a strong-willed child or by being in a difficult marriage? How do you keep going when life seems to be full of challenges? Not in your own strength, but …Do you feel beaten and bruised from raising a strong-willed child or by being in a difficult marriage? Have you recently faced a devastating loss or were the holidays especially difficult? How do you keep going when life seems to be full of challenges? Not in your own strength, but …

 

Today’s Readings:
Zechariah 4-6
Psalm 148.1-6
Proverbs 30.24-28
Revelation 17.1-18

 

Beaten and Bruised?

 

Zechariah 4-6:

Not by Might

 

Verse 4.6 says, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Sixteen years previously, doubt, discouragement and opposition had caused the Jews to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel was God’s chosen leader and this word from God was meant to be an encouragement to him that they were to finish the task God had given them.

This should be an encouragement to us, as well, when we feel beaten and bruised or when God has called us to some challenge—whether raising a strong-willed child, honoring Christ in the midst of a difficult marriage, growing a ministry, or serving Him in the workplace. It is not by might, not by our own strength or abilities, but through God’s power that we will succeed.

[Tweet “How do you raise a difficult child or handle other challenges? Not by might, but …” #soulsurvival]

Hebrews 4.14-16:

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When we come to Him boldly in prayer, He promises to give us the help and the grace we need in every situation.

And James 1.2-7 says:

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

He will provide us with the wisdom we need, but we must Continue reading

“The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!” November 28

 

The Fullness of Scripture ... Wade In! - The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to "wade in" so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word. Also read about "The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution" and "The Futility of Arguing with a Fool."The river flowing out of the Millennial Temple represents the fullness of Scripture. Some things are “ankle deep”—easy to understand. Others are knee deep and require more study. Others are deeper still and we may not be able to understand them fully. Even so, God wants us to “wade in” so we can grow in our understanding of Him and His Word.

Also read about “The 4 Attitudes to have in the Midst of Trials & Persecution” and “The Futility of Arguing with a Fool.”

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 47 & 48
Psalm 135.8-14
Proverbs 29.9
1 Peter 4.1-19

 

The Fullness of Scripture … Wade In!

 

Ezekiel 47 & 48:

Christ, the Gospel & Living Water

 

These two chapters close out the book of Ezekiel. Chapter 47 describes a river flowing out of the temple. Symbolically the Temple is Christ and the river is the Gospel. The Living Water flows from Him and blesses everything it touches.

In the deepness of the water we see the fullness of Scripture. While in some places it’s ankle deep, in other places knee deep, and in other places even deeper, God wants us to wade in.

As Paul told Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2.15).

The fact that we won’t understand everything about God in this life (2 Pet. 3.14-16), is all the more reason to worship Him. A god we could understand fully wouldn’t be God at all!

Why not “wade in” to Scripture in the coming year by signing up for the “BIBLE IN A YEAR” devotionals?

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 135.8-14:

No Power of Hell or Earth …

 

In this psalm of praise to God for creation and redemption it says:

He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders, defeated many nations, slew mighty kings and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage to Israel His people. Verses 13-14: 

Continue reading

“Are you ‘profiting’ from the Bible?” November 25

 

Are you "profiting" from the Bible?

What does Matthew Henry mean when he talks about “profiting from the Bible”?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 41 & 42
Psalm 133.1-3
Proverbs 29.6
1 Peter 1.1-25

 

Are you profiting from the Bible?

 

Ezekiel 41 & 42:

Profiting from the Bible

 

In chapter 40, Ezekiel said:

¹ In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the Lord was upon me; and He took me there. In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city.

From outside the city, God took him to the outside of the temple and into the courts (Ezek 40.6-49) and then into the temple itself (Ezek. 41).

Matthew Henry in his Complete Commentary on the Bible, says about chapter 41, “After the prophet had observed the courts, he was brought to the temple. If we attend to instructions in the plainer parts of religion, and profit by them, we shall be led further into an acquaintance with the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.”

My paraphrase—if we are faithful to learn the basics of the Christian faith, God will take us deeper into the wonders of His Word.

But notice that second sentence in Henry’s comment, “If we attend to instruction … and profit by them …” If we are not applying what we already know, it is unlikely we will grow and understand more!

The writer of Hebrews said it this way:  Continue reading

“The Right Bait & the Process of Sin” November 23

 

The Right Bait & the Process of Sin - What is the process of sin in your life? God has clearly explained it so we can avoid its pitfalls, but would you recognize it, if it was happening to you?What is the process of sin in your life? God has clearly explained it so we can avoid its pitfalls, but would you recognize it, if it was happening to you?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 37 & 38
Psalm 132.1-9
Proverbs 29.4
James 4.1-17

 

The Right Bait & the Process of Sin

 

James 4.1-17:

The Process of Sin

 

There is so much in the book of James and this chapter is no exception. Verse 4.1 coupled with chapter 1.13-15 give us great insight into the process of sin in our lives.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (4.1).

We often point outside ourselves to other people and circumstances as the reasons for our problems and conflicts. But James clearly tells us they come from our own sinful desires. We do what we do because we want what we want; the problem is not outside of us, but within us!

Sometimes we even attempt to put the blame on God for our sinful behavior. “I prayed and prayed for God to help me (deliver me, remove this sinful desire, etc.), but He just hasn’t.” Chapter 1.13-15:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

The Process of SinVerse 14 uses a fishing analogy. Each of us is lured or enticed by our own desires just as a fish is enticed to “take the bait.” And like the fish, we often fail to believe the bait has a hook in it! Once we take the bait we are “drawn away” or we might say, reeled in.

Next James uses a birth analogy: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

First, there is the sinful desire. We start thinking about that man or woman at work. We justify it by saying, “There’s no harm in it. I’m not going to do anything about it!” Pretty soon we start telling ourselves things like, “Well, if my spouse paid more attention to me …,” “He makes me feel desirable,” “At least she respects me,” or a million other variations of the lie.

The desire has been conceived. It’s not full grown yet, but it’s taking shape in the womb of our sinful hearts. And when it’s full grown it gives birth to sin. If we don’t stop it in its tracks, it will be followed by death: guilt, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, destruction, even divorce!

Of course, lust and sexual immorality are not the only areas where sin can entice us. It might be just one drink, lying to make ourselves look better, cheating, gossiping, or a million other things.

God included this passage in His Word to reveal the process of sin so we can recognize and avoid it. And if we are already nibbling the devil’s bait … or worse … so we would repent and cry out for His help.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 37 & 38:

Dry Bones & Resurrection Life

 

In chapter 37 Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley filled with dry bones. God tells him He is going to bring the dry bones back together, cover them with flesh, and breathe His Spirit into them. (I can’t read this passage without humming the old song “Dry Bones” that many of us sang as children. Anyone else?)

The dry bones represent the Israelites who had been dispersed among other nations. God promised He would restore them to their land and give them His Holy Spirit.

God also brings resurrection life to our sinful, dry lives. He redeems our pasts, restores where there is death and devastation and breathes life into marriages and relationships that have fallen into disrepair. Continue reading

“Where is God When Life is Hard?” November 18

 

When Life is Hard - Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 27 & 28
Psalm 129.1-4
Proverbs 28.26
Hebrews 12.1-29

 

When Life is Hard

 

Hebrews 12.1-29:

God Our Perfect Parent

 

When Life Is Hard

This chapter talks about the discipline or the chastening of the Lord. When we go through difficult times, the devil tempts us to believe that it’s because God doesn’t love us or because we aren’t really believers or that we must have done something so horrible that He will no longer help us.

But in reality, the opposite is true. This chapter clearly tells us that “whom the Lord loves He chastens.” So whether we are chastened because of unrepentant sin, pruned so that we will bear more fruit (Jn. 15), or suffering the consequences of our own choices (Gal. 6.7-9), it is proof that God loves us.

As Psalm 119.71 says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” and verse 75 adds, “in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

Pastor James MacDonald has done a wonderful, life-changing series based on Hebrews 12.5-17 entitled When Life Is Hard. In it he explains the importance of understanding how God as the Perfect Parent lovingly disciplines His children, how He does it because He loves us, and how He uses it for our good.

He also outlines the dangerous process that can happen to someone who rejects God’s discipline. That person can become discouraged and then bitter. That bitterness can defile everything and everyone around it. And, if those attitudes are not dealt with, it can lead to profane living and, finally, rejection.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezekiel 27 & 28:

Pride & Humility

 

God continues to speak through the prophet, this time to Tyre, a coastal city in modern Lebanon famous for its trade and goods. In 28.11-17 he speaks to the King of Tyre. This passage and others in the Bible, especially in the prophetic books and the Psalms, have duel meanings. While it is addressed to the historical king and city, it also speaks of Satan who was the power behind the King of Tyre.  Continue reading

“When Life is Hard” + LINKUP

 

When Life is HardWelcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald, one of the best books I have ever read about tests and trials.

Pastor MacDonald wrote this book in the midst of what he calls “a storm and finally a category 5 hurricane.” What he learned can help each one of us as we go through our own tests, trials and storms.

Pastor MacDonald:

Jeremiah 29:11 says “He knows the plans He has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Yes! That’s what I want to hear, you may be thinking. Let’s get on those plans right now—future, hope, blessing. I’m ready! But here’s the thing: God knows something else. He knows that we’re not always ready for the plans that He has for us. So He has some plans to get us ready for His plans. That’s really what this book is about—taking the difficult things that God allows into your life, and getting to the place where the blessing can be received.

The key truth he drives home throughout the book is from Job 23.10:

“He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

God knows what is going on in each of our lives and He has promised to use trials for good in our lives (Rom. 8.28-29).

Pastor MacDonald defines trials this way:

A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character. My conduct—that’s what I do. And then to a deeper level, my character—that’s who I am.

He goes on to help us first evaluate our hard circumstances. Are they trials or a consequences? This is an important distinction. The author: Continue reading

5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us

 

5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us

 

5 Ways God Finishes His Work in Us

 

Philippians 1.6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

What a great promise! We can be confident, not in ourselves that we’ll somehow make it to the end, but if we belong to Him, He will finish the work He has started in us. God Himself is the guarantor of His promises.

It would be nice if He just sprinkled some pixy dust over us and we were instantly changed. But that’s not the way God usually does His work in us.

And … We often wish He would do that in other people’s lives, too.

When we’ve been unequally yoked and a husband comes to know the Lord, we want them to immediately be where we are. When someone close to us surrenders his or her life to God, especially if it has been a difficult relationship, we can be unrealistic in our expectations.

There is immediate change in our lives and the lives of others. Our eternal destiny has been changed. 2 Cor. 5.17 says we are new creations; we were born again by the Spirit of God, but it takes time for those changes to work themselves out in our daily living.

That’s not an excuse. In fact, as God shows us areas where we need to change and grow we need to respond to those promptings.

Milk baby Bottle Heb. 5.12-14 says:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use (the NASB says PRACTICE) have their senses exercised (TRAINED) to discern both good and evil.

Some of us are still babies sucking on milk because we don’t do the things God has told us to do. AMEN … or OH MY.

Even then, God doesn’t stop doing His work in us, but it’s going to take longer and probably involve more pain and hardship.

What processes does He use to complete the work He started in us? I like to talk about five major ways.

 

God changes us as we learn to do 5 things:

 

1. Count it all joy (James 1.2-8).

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually feel like being joyful when I’m in the midst of a trial. How can we count it all joy when we’re in a trial? Continue reading