“Cure for the Curse on Our Cities” June 7

 

Cure for the Curse on Our CitiesIf your city or town is like mine, there are probably things about it you don’t like. Maybe it’s too hot in the summer or too humid. Maybe it rains too much or too little. Maybe it’s too big or too small or there’s not enough to do.

But, probably like my city, there are many things about it that make it pleasant, things about which we should be thankful.  No matter if we love where we live or not, your city and mine suffer from a curse. If that’s true, what is the cure?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Kings 1 & 2
Psalm 71.9-16
Proverbs 18.6-8
John 16.1-33

 

A Cure for the Curse

 

2 Kings 1 & 2:

Send Me!

 

Don’t you love Elisha’s boldness in asking for “a double portion” of the Lord’s Spirit in his life! I wonder how much more we could do for the Lord, if we just ASKED Him to do something through us! It made me think of Isaiah when He really saw God for Who He was:

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'”

Do we, maybe out of a false sense of humility, neglect to say “Send me!” or “Please give me a double portion, Lord!”

 

A Cure for the Curse

 

Chapter 2.19-21 points out another great truth. It says:

“Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.’ And he said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, Thus says the LORD. ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.'”

In John MacArthur’s Study Bible, he says, “The healing of Jericho’s water, through Elisha, freed the city from Joshua’s curse, making it habitable for humans once again (Josh. 6.26; 1 Ki. 16.34).

I thought about our city. It, too, is a pleasant city in so many ways. Even though we often complain about our dust, our hot summers, and our laid back attitude, there are so many things for which we should be thankful—first and foremost—our people. I believe we have some of the most wonderful people in the world! And wherever you live, there are things about your city or town that make it “pleasant.” But we, also, suffer from a curse, the curse of sin, just as every city and all of mankind does.

The answer to our problems is also the same—applying salt, God’s cleansing and purifying, to the source, the hearts of the people. Jesus told us that we are to be salt to those around us (Matt. 5.13). Let’s ask God to “send us” and “use us” to be His agents of grace, sharing the Gospel with those who need His cleansing power and loving them with His love!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 71.9-16:

When Suffering

 

When others attack you, instead of defending yourself, keep your eyes on Him. Verses 14-16:  Continue reading

“Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Rejection” May 1

 

How to Respond to PersecutionPersecution, mistreatment, and rejection will come.

Sometimes it comes, not in ways that threaten our lives, but from our own family members and friends. It hurts to be left out of family events or called self-righteous.

Yes … persecution and mistreatment will come. How can we be sure that God will give us the grace, ability and right words to say when we’re faced with it?

First, we shouldn’t be surprised by it! Instead, let’s see it as an occasion for sharing our testimonies and the truth about God. Let’s see it as an opportunity to walk in love and leave justice in the hands of God.

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 4 & 5
Psalm 54.1-7
Proverbs 15.12-13
Luke 21.1-19

 

Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Mistreatment

 

1 Samuel 4 & 5:

God is Always at Work

 

Here we have another sad time in Israel’s history where God withdrew His immediate presence and protection from them because of their willful disobedience and idolatry. But this narrative leaves no doubt that even when people may not make the connection, God is always at work in the affairs of men.

That is true today, as well as, in Old Testament times. I once read that the word “history” actually means “His-story” and I certainly believe that’s true. So the question is, “What is God doing today?” How does everything that’s happening in our world—whether politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other world events, play into His plan and purpose?

He is there in the blessing and protection, but also in the withdrawing of blessing and protection.

That leads right into our Luke passage, so we’ll go there next.

 

Luke 21.1-19:

He Is Coming

 

pointing to heaven

 

This portion of Scripture, like Matthew 24, Mark 13 and other passages, talks about many of the events that point to Christ’s eminent return. Many of these things appear to be happening today, pointing to the possibility that He’ll be coming back soon. So,  what can we expect and what did Jesus say we should be doing if that’s true?

 

 

A Time of Testing & Persecution

 

Verses 12-13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, … But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”

We should expect to be persecuted, do not be surprised by it! Instead of being upset or complaining, we should see it as an occasion for sharing our testimony and the truth about God.

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Pet. 3.13-16).

If that sounds scary and you think, “I don’t know enough” or “I might mess it up,” remember verses 14 and 15:

“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”

That should be comforting and extremely encouraging.

Expect opposition even from your own family:  Continue reading

“Risky Faith” April 8

 

Risky Faith - Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won't be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.

 

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 5 & 6
Psalm 42.6-11
Proverbs 13.19-21
Luke 9.18-36

 

Risky Faith

 

Joshua 5 & 6:

A Hill of Foreskins

 

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).

I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.

 

Their Parents Disobedience

 

The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.

It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist.  While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.

 

Risky Faith

 

God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.

When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.

Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.

It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.

tree rootsSometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).

But, as believers, we shouldn’t go looking for persecution. We need to be wise and prayerful. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, says:  Continue reading

“Joy will come!” March 3

 

Joy will come! - Are you going through some difficulty? Are the things of this world pressing in? Do you feel like God isn't even listening? Meditate on today's reading in Psalm 30 ... joy will come!Are you going through some difficulty? Are the things of this world pressing in? Do you feel like God isn’t even listening? Meditate on today’s reading in Psalm 30 … joy will come!

 

Today’s Readings:
Numbers 3 & 4
Psalm 30.1-7
Proverbs 10.30-32
Mark 8.1-21

 

Joy will come!

 

Psalm 30.1-7:

Our Light Affliction

 

Verse 5, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

John MacArthur calls this verse “… one of the most worshipful testimonies from the Scriptures.”

In John 16.20-22 Jesus said:

Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

Sometimes life can be difficult, but this world is not our home and this life is short in comparison to eternity. Jesus is coming back for us and someday we will spend eternity ruling and reigning with Him. Paul said:  Continue reading

“When You Try Trusting God & Things Get Worse” January 28

 

When You Try Trusting God & Things Get Worse - Our Exodus reading illustrates the importance of being willing to keep standing and trusting God when things get worse instead of better and can help us understand that we are in a spiritual battle.  Psalm 16 reminds us where real joy is to be found.  Proverbs 5 warns us of the consequences of sin. All of us need to heed the warnings in this passage, but if you have teenagers, knowing these truths and teaching them to your sons and daughters is so important. This may be one of the most important passages for boys to understand even before they come into their teens.There are so many important truths in today’s readings. I had a hard time deciding which one to feature in the title. I hope you’ll take the time to read today and let me know what spoke to you.

Our Exodus reading illustrates the importance of being willing to keep standing and trusting God when things get worse instead of better and can help us understand that we are in a spiritual battle.

Psalm 16 reminds us where real joy is to be found.

Proverbs 5 warns us of the consequences of sin. All of us need to heed the warnings in this passage, but if you have teenagers, knowing these truths and teaching them to your sons and daughters is so important. This may be one of the most important passages for boys to understand even before they come into their teens.

Finally, Matthew 18 illustrates the seriousness of unforgiveness and its effect on our relationship with God.

On to the Word …

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 5 & 6
Psalm 16.7-11
Proverbs 5.7-14
Matthew 18.21-35

 

When You Try Trusting God & Things Get Worse

 

Exodus 5 & 6:

When Things Get Worse

 

Now Moses has returned to Egypt to do what God has told him to do. He has gone to his brother Aaron and received confirmation from him, from the elders, and from the people (Ex. 4.27-31). But when he and Aaron go to Pharaoh to demand he let the people go, things don’t turn out so well! In fact, things get worse!

Have you ever felt that way? You surrender your life to God or you make a decision to turn and go God’s way in some area of life. At first it’s great. You know you’re doing the right thing … but then things start to go wrong! Continue reading

“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

“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