Is there a key to the Christian life? If so, what is it and where does it come from? It runs through all our readings today and, in fact, throughout the Bible. Continue reading
Is there a key to the Christian life? If so, what is it and where does it come from? It runs through all our readings today and, in fact, throughout the Bible. Continue reading
When God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?
Trusting God makes all the difference in times of suffering. What can we learn about God that will steady us in tough times? Continue reading
God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithfully studying the Bible and seeking to understand and apply it, even in a pagan culture. There is little doubt that we are living in a post-Christian culture, in many ways a pagan one. Are you part of that remnant?
Ezra 7 & 8
Ezra 7 & 8:
As you can well imagine, most of the returning Jews who had lived and many been born in a pagan culture had little understanding of God’s law. But chapter 7 verse 6 says:
“This Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given.”
Ezra had faithfully studied and meditated on the laws and precepts of God in spite of the culture around him. And because of his faithful preparation, he was instrumental in teaching the people who returned to Jerusalem after the captivity. God was able to use him in a mighty way because he knew God’s Word!
Do you suppose he ever wondered, “Why am I spending all this time reading and studying and memorizing scripture?” John MacArthur says in his Daily Bible that, according to tradition, Ezra had memorized God’s law. That would have been, at least, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—memorized! Many of us have gotten bogged down just trying to read through the last three.
God has always supernaturally protected His Word and always had a remnant of men and women faithful to study, understand and apply it.
Verse 6 says that Ezra was a Scribe. Scribes were commissioned with copying the Scriptures by hand, as well as, knowing and teaching them. Did you know there are more than 5,300 handwritten Greek manuscripts of the New Testament alone (many more of the O.T.) and they have very few errors, most of which have to do with numbers or spelling not things which would alter any Bible doctrine.
It’s no wonder that Jesus was so upset with the Scribes and Pharisees in His day. They knew the Word of God and legalistically demanded adherence to the letter of it without grasping the Spirit of it.
Ezra was a great example, though, not just of knowing the law, but living it:
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (7.10).
Notice the order: he prepared his heart, he sought to understand the Word of God, he purposed in his heart to obey it, and then he taught it to others. It’s not that we are ever going to do things perfectly, but before we seek to teach others, we should be doing our best to understand and be doers of God’s Word ourselves.
What about you? Are you faithfully studying God’s Word for yourself or are you content to be spoon fed on Sunday mornings? What if it was suddenly against the law to own or read a Bible, do you have enough of God’s Word hidden in your heart to sustain you and to allow you teach others?
Truth isn’t always comfortable or pleasing to our sinful, selfish nature, but it’s the truth that will deliver us from the consequences of foolishness and sin. Bad advice, on the other hand, tickles our ears and gives us the “go ahead” to do what we really want to do.
2 Chronicles 9 & 10
Verse 18, “Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.”
In 2 Chronicles 10, today’s Old Testament reading, we see the importance of wise counsel. Rehoboam sought counsel, but he rejected the wise counsel of those who had walked with God for many years and, instead, took the advice that pleased Him.
There is much of that going on in the world today. Instead of seeking counsel from God’s Word or from wise people, many seek counsel that confirms what they want to do, especially if what they want to do is sin or foolishness! Even as professing believers, we can fall into that trap.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4.3).
On the other hand, godly wisdom may not always be what we want to hear, but it’s the wisdom that will keep us from a train wreck down the road. Ultimately, it’s the truth of God that will set us free (Jn. 8.32). It’s the person who truly loves us who will speak the sometimes uncomfortable truth to us.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Prov. 27.6).
2 Chronicles 9 & 10:
2 Chronicles 9 tells us:
13 The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, 14 besides what the traveling merchants and traders brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon.
The actual weight of a talent may have varied from area to area, but it was probably 75-100 pounds. At 75 pounds that would be 49,950 pounds of gold coming into the treasury each year. Trying to figure out what that would be worth today was definitely beyond my pay grade. Gold is not priced by the pound, but by the troy ounce which is worth more than $1200. So you do the math. Continue reading
I counsel a lot of people who struggle because of words that were spoken to them as children. Certainly, God can use it for good as He helps them find their identity in Him, but how sad when our kids have to overcome our parenting, rather than remember it with gratitude. You kids will be grown before you know it. How will they remember you? They may know you love them, but do they know you like them?
2 Samuel 3 & 4
Verse 15, “In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.”
Leaders have a great opportunity to be a blessing by encouraging those under them. My husband recently picked up a book about the top 10 mistakes leaders make. One of the big 10 was failing to encourage!
No where do we have a greater opportunity to encourage (or discourage!) than in our homes with our spouses and with our children.
That’s one reason why husbands are commanded to live with their wives in a understanding way (1 Pet. 3.7) and wives are commanded to show respect for their husbands (Eph. 5.33) and to have a gentle spirit (1 Pet. 3.2). Even when we must reprove one another we are to do it with gentleness (Gal. 6.1).
As parents, Colossians 3.21 instructs us to “not provoke [our] children, lest they become discouraged.” Parenting is not about giving our children everything they want (far from it!) or allowing them to do what pleases them, but we can and should parent in a way that encourages them and not in a way that discourages them.
Megan Scheibner and her husband Steve have a website called “Character Health.” In her blog she wrote:
There are many things that my children know. They know how to read, they know how to pray, they know how to do their chores, etc. But, there are just as many things that I assume my children know without ever making sure that my assumption is correct … The first is this: don’t assume your children know you like them. Yes, my children know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love them, however, do they know that I like them?
How are your relationships with your children? Is it all about what they do wrong? Is it all about getting their homework and chores done? Is it all about the next scheduled activity? Do you ever take the time to just let your kids know you like them and enjoy spending time with them? Continue reading
Has it ever happened to you? You are growing in the things of God and have dealt with some area of sin when all of a sudden you find yourself dealing with the same issue again. Could it be God’s homework?
Also, do you ever find yourself bored with your prayer life? In his book, Praying the Bible, Don Whitney poses the question, “Why don’t Christians pray more?” He gives the startling answer that we don’t pray more because we tend to pray the same old way about the same old things, day after day, and prayer becomes boring! Read more about how to pray the Bible in today’s post.
1 Samuel 24 & 25
1 Samuel 24 & 25:
Do you ever feel like God shows you something and you think, “OK, I’ve got it!” And then, almost immediately, God gives you an opportunity to put that truth to the test. We sometimes think, “Wait a minute. Why am I here again? I thought God was pleased because I had responded the way I should.”
I think it’s kind of like a teacher who gives homework to solidify something you learned in class. Without the repetition and practice, we may understand it on one level, but we haven’t had the opportunity to develop the skill and make it a habit.
That’s how I see these two chapters in 1 Samuel. First, David is hiding in a cave when, low and behold, Saul comes into that same cave to relieve himself. This is too good to be true! Has God delivered him into David’s hands?
But David recognizes that this is a test. If he had killed Saul he would have been getting ahead of God by taking matters into his own hands. David responded rightly and Saul, convicted by David’s righteousness, goes back home. Good job, David, now everything should be smooth sailing from here on, right? Continue reading
Do you find yourself praying about the same struggles day after day and week after week … sometimes year after year. Maybe you’ve, actually, stopped praying about it, because you’re sure God is tired of hearing it.
Or have you been tempted to think … I give up! I’ve tried to stop or I’ve asked God to take this away. Maybe He just isn’t listening!
1 Samuel 12 & 13
Have you ever felt you let God down by something you did or failed to do? You told Him, you would never do such and such again, but a day or two or three later … there you are again. You may feel like Peter when the rooster crowed and He realized Jesus was looking right at him (Lk. 22.34, 60-61)!
Do you find yourself praying about the same struggles day after day and week after week … sometimes year after year. Maybe you’ve stopped praying about it, because you’re sure God is tired of hearing it.
Or have you been tempted to think … I give up! I’ve tried or I’ve asked God to take this away. Maybe He just isn’t listening! Continue reading
Even if you haven’t followed along lately, I hope you’ll take the time to read this post. Our thinking is so important and learning to think biblically makes all the difference in our emotional condition.
Joshua 17 & 18
How Our Thinking Controls Our Emotions
Verses 22-31 repeat much of what we read a couple of months ago in Matthew 6 about worry and trust in God, but we can never hear these things often enough. Verses 29-31:
29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
I especially like verse 29, “And do not … have an anxious mind.” Why are we so often anxious? What, generally, controls our emotions?
Philippians 4 says:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Have you ever prayed and given some situation to God, only to find yourself worried about it a hour later? Why do we find it so hard to leave our troubles with God?
I believe the answer is in verse 8.
When it comes to worry and anxiety, it’s not enough to pray and then go back to thinking about it, trying to figure out how God’s going to solve the issue, or as we often do, fretting about what we should do to fix the problem. We need to change our thinking.
It’s no accident that verse 8 follows 6 and 7. “Finally …” after you’ve prayed about it, “meditate on these things”! Think about them deeply.
What is it we’re to think about deeply?
We’re to focus on what’s true, not the what if’s and maybe’s. We’re to think about the greater truths. It may be true that your husband has lost his job, but the greater truth is that God is your Provider (2 Cor. 9.8; Phil. 4.19).
We’re to think about what’s noble and lovely. Believe the best of others. Don’t see them in the worst possible light. See them as God sees them. And remember no one is too hard for God (Prov. 21.1).
Think of the good, those things for which you can be thankful. Think about how God has taken care of you in the past and how You have seen Him work in the Bible and in the lives of people you know.
2 Corinthians 10.4-5 says:
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Notice the words “arguments”, “knowledge” and “thoughts.” These strongholds have to do with our thinking and patterns of thinking. We take our thoughts captive by replacing them with God-honoring, God-filtered ones.
When we’re tempted to worry and be anxious, we must remind ourselves that if the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. We won’t lack anything we need. But, as I heard someone say, Psalm 23.1 may be the best known and least believed verse in the Bible.
When we start to wonder if our spouse will ever change, we must remind ourselves that our job is to first take the logs out of our own eyes (Matt. 7.5), that we overcome evil with good (Rom. 12.21) and that doing good to the other person will be the most likely way to bring conviction (Rom. 12.20).
When we start fretting about our children, we must remember that God only asks us to be faithful (1 Cor. 4.2) to teach and train them using godly principles (Eph. 6.4), not to unnecessarily frustrate them (Col. 3.21) or provoke them to anger (Eph. 6.4), and to leave the results in His hands (Prov. 22.6).
But in order to take our thoughts captive to these truths and others, we must first put God’s word in our hearts and minds. Romans 12.2 tells us:
“… be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And Psalm 119.9-11 (NASB) says:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
So when we’re feeling anxious or worried or a host of other negative emotions, let’s stop and take an inventory of our thoughts.
The Sovereign God who watches over all the details of life is watching over us. He knows what we need. Our focus is to be on doing the things that advance His kingdom. But if we’re not purposefully thinking and meditating on those things, our default modes of worry, anxiety, anger, other sinful thought patterns will take over.
When I’m counseling people struggling with emotional issues, I often ask them to keep a journal. It’s often very revealing for them to slow down and ask themselves a series of questions. Continue reading
We all understand that the things of this world can distract us from our devotion to God. But seemingly good things, like our religious activities and our service to Him, can make us busy and distracted, too. Could there be something in your life that’s distracting you from whole-hearted devotion to God? If so, what can you do about it?
Joshua 11 & 12
This passage contains two very familiar stories: Jesus’ teaching on the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary and Martha.
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Notice that little phrase “wanting to justify himself.” He knew what the law said, but his desire was to be justified, to look good, maybe to be sure his ticket to heaven was valid. He was focused on himself, not God and others.
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
These men were religious. But in another passage, Jesus said they enjoyed praying on the street corners and doing good deeds to look good to others (Matt. 6.1-5). They thought their knowledge of the law and their heritage guaranteed them a place in heaven (Jn. 8.39). They were focused on their importance and religiosity. But what Jesus saw was their lack of love and obedience.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
This religious lawyer knew what the law said, but he failed to grasp the meaning of it. If we love God, we’ll have more than a desire to know the law. We should have a desire to obey it. Obeying it means loving those God places in our paths, whether we consider them friends or enemies. It means going out of our way to help others just as the Samaritan did.
In verses 38-42 we meet Martha and her sister Mary.
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was blessed with the gift of serving. She probably did it well and was, most likely, a blessing to many.
Jesus didn’t say serving was wrong. In fact, serving is one of the Holy Spirit inspired gifts to the body of Christ. The problem wasn’t that Martha wanted to serve; the problem
was that she was “distracted” by it. She was focused on her busyness. Continue reading
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 …
Exodus 5 & 6
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