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Archive for February, 2010

Harshness

Are you ever harsh with others in the way you speak to them? I know I’ve been guilty of that — but I never want to be guilty of such things — do you?

Proverbs 16:27 says this: “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are a scorching fire.”

Have you ever brought up someone else’s failures when supposedly you forgave them? By bringing a failure up again, you and I are in fact digging up evil.

And usually when we do this, our words are indeed a “scorching fire.”

Now the question is, how do we keep from doing this? The answer can be found a few verses later, in v.32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city.”

I have prayed over this verse it seems like hundreds of times — asking God to help me to indeed be “slow to anger” and to walk in self-control (the meaning of “rules his spirit”).

Is that a prayer that God wants to answer? You bet He does!

And I’ve seen for several decades now how He has answered that prayer: so many times when I could have “exploded” with a verbal barrage against another, I was instead able to maintain a cool spirit, listen to God and to the person and pray silently for the person and for myself.

This has resulted in great freedom and joy for me. Do you desire the same?

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A friend of mine mentioned this phrase to me a few hours ago that I had not heard before: Satan has a “three-fold plan for your life”: to kill, steal and destroy you (John 10:10).

But God’s plan for you is rooted in His goodness and in His love for you — and He HAS SO MUCH BETTER FOR YOU!

Think about it: If you belong to Him, you’re His son or daughter: He has so, so much better for you because He has said so in Mt. 7:7-11:

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

8″For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

9″Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

10″Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

11″If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Have you been having difficulty trusting God because people have hurt you or let you down — and you’ve blamed God for it — and consequently, you’ve seen Him as untrustworthy?

And are you any better off as a result for believing a lie about Him?

Have you believed the lie that the world offers more “fun” out of life than Jesus — and therefore you’ve yielded to worldliness? If so, how is that really working out for you?

If you have, you’ve missed sight of how joyful and fun He really is, and how often the Bible talks about joy. You’ve been blinded to truth and you’ve been deceived and you’ve not understood what faith in God is all about.

Whatever “whispers” you’ve been hearing that have been attempting to draw you away from the Lord, renounce them out loud now and tell God you’ll trust Him, no matter what.

Let me ask you a very probing question: If God allowed you to be imprisoned for your faith right now; if He allowed you to suffer martyrdom for your faith (as is no doubt happening somewhere in the world as we speak), does that mean He loves you any less?

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One act of disobedience from Ananias and Sapphira caused them to lose their lives.

One act of disobedience from Saul caused him to lose his kingship.

And one act of disobedience from David — his adultery with Bathsheba — led to David being responsible for the death of her husband, Uriah. David, though later forgiven for his treacher, never again experienced the kind of quality of life that caused him to be so admired among so many.

Friend, none of us can ever know the consequences of one act of disobedience and far too many think they can commit sin with impunity and never suffer the consequences.

If your foundation in Christ is not stable and if you’re not daily making sure of its stability, you’re in trouble. Note our Lord’s words from Mt. 7:24-29:
24″Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25″And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
26″Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
27″The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.”
28When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Let us never presume upon God’s grace; the very time we think we can disobey, receive His forgiveness and not suffer the consequences may just be the time we regret our decision the most!

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I write today’s blog out of a genuine concern for the health of marriages. How is your marriage doing today?

Are you treating your spouse the way you want to be treated? For example, do you find ways to encourage your spouse? Do you demonstrate appreciation with a simple “thank you” — even for the “little” things of life?

Do you demonstrate genunine interest in what your spouse is interested — even if that interest is not very high on your list?

Do you practice choosing to love your spouse unconditionally — or is your based upon your terms and conditions?

Do you act as an equal partner or do you play the role of “parent” in correcting, scolding or otherwise saying or doing things to subtly gain control by manipulation over your spouse?

Do you allow yourself to compare others that are “better looking,” more “successful,” a “better communicator,” or someone who appears more “empathetic” than your own spouse?

Do you really believe “the grass is greener on the other side”? Do you allow yourself to fantasize over other people?

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, may I encourage you to begin to imitate God in everything you do in life — especially in the way you treat your spouse (Eph. 5:1)?

It’s time to forgive and release your spouse from the sins of the past — just as your heavenly Father does. It’s time to bless, encourage, appreciate your spouse — just as your heavenly Father does.

It’s time to pray for your spouse — instead of criticizing — just as Jesus does for you.

And it’s time to gain a long-range plan for your marriage: every marriage ought to have this goal in mind: to invest time together now — each day — so that you can grow old together.

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My thoughts are on those of you who are struggling in some manner right now and I want to share three verses that I believe will minister to you:

They come from Mt. 11:28-30:

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Here are a few explanatory notes to lend more insight into these marvelous verses:

When Jesus tells us, “Come to Me,” those words are in the present tense: they mean to continually come to Him as a lifestyle.

When we do this, His promise is “rest.” That Greek word can also mean “refreshing” and it’s noteworthy that He emphasizes this to us by repeating the word twice (vv.28, 30).

One additional thought: The word translated “easy” (v.30) can mean “good,” “kind,” “useful,” or “comfortable.”

Now the question is, how do we come to Jesus? We do so by talking to Him; by reading His Word back to Him, out loud; we come to Him through songs of praise and worship and we come to Him by lying prostrate on our faces before Him in silence to allow Him to minister to us.

Friend, are you struggling right now in any way? Apply this open invitation from your Lord right now and watch what He’ll do for you!

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                          How King David Viewed His Suffering

Psalm 119 has been my “go to” chapter in Scripture for about three decades now, whenever I need renewal or revival.

And I’ve learned a great deal about how to handle suffering in its variety of forms from its author, King David.

In this study, I want us to see how David links suffering and revival or renewal together as we focus on six different verses that give us encouragement and the right perspective in the midst of our suffering.

The first four verses give us this insight: suffering ought to draw us to God – the One who best knows how to comfort us – and one of the greatest ways He comforts us is through His Word:

25 My soul cleaves to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.

50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.

71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.

107 I am exceedingly afflicted;
Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.

I would much rather have God to go to in my suffering than anything or anyone else; this is precisely what David teaches us in this Psalm.

                                    Suffering that is Self-Inflicted

We often hear the refrain that experience is one of our best teachers and that we frequently learn “from the school of hard knocks.”

In effect, this is what David teaches us about the kind of suffering that we bring on ourselves, in v.67 (in the previous four verses, David doesn’t tell us why he was suffering, though we may assume the suffering was due to circumstances outside of his control):

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.

It’s frustrating to do unnecessary things that bring about our own suffering, but even in those situations, David teaches us that God can bring about good for us.

Another lesson we learn from David about suffering is that God either allows us or puts us into situations where we suffer in order for us to grow in areas that we ordinarily would not grow in apart from suffering:

75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

Romans 5:3-5 gives us a progression of insight into one reason that God allows us to suffer: Suffering teaches us perseverance – one of the greatest and necessary qualities we can have.

In addition, Rom. 5:4 tells us that suffering results in “proven character.” I always like to say, “If we lose our character, what else do we have?”

When our character is established, we develop “hope” (v.4). The biblical definition of “hope” refers more to an assurance of what will happen in the future, while we wait for that assurance to come to pass.

Finally in Rom. 5:5 we find a connection between “hope” and God’s love: We can have true biblical hope because we trust in a God who is faithful, reliable and steady with His love toward us.

Friend, are you enduring some sort of suffering right now? If you are, may I encourage you to open up your Bible to Ps. 119 and read slowly through it – but before you do, pray first and ask God to speak to you?

If you do this and take your time in and through Ps. 119, I believe you’ll come away with the encouragement and perspective you need to overcome.

Let me know how it goes for you!

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One of my favorite quotes:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak.

“As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries” Astronomer Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), 107.

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