Do you ever get confused, frustrated, or fearful in today’s culture?

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Do you ever get confused by what’s going on in our culture? Do you ever get frustrated by what’s happening?

You may think that you are a good person, trying to do the right things and not getting into conflict with others, yet when you look around, you see a world that seems to be changing before your eyes and you don’t know how to respond?

Should you be concerned? Will things continue to trend away from morality standards you can agree with?

You are not alone if you have these thoughts. Should you continue thinking through these concerns? By all means!

“PREPARE” is a book written by J. Paul Nyquist, the President of Moody Bible Institute. It is outstanding!

I enjoy reading, but this book was something special. It was a three-day read for me. I just couldn’t put it down.

I try to look to the Bible to be my source of guidance in how I am to live. When it comes to getting a handle on all the changes in our culture and how I should be responding, to be honest, often times, I just get confused. I’m not sure really what to think or how to act.

So, I was refreshed by the content of this book, which helped me better understand what has been going in our culture, what most likely will take place in the future, and how I can have hope through it all.

Please make the time to read this book. You will be so glad you did. I can’t recommend it any stronger to you.

Blessings.

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Christian friend, don’t be surprised by…

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1 Peter 4:12 (NIV) says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”

No doubt these are challenging times for Christian believers. The hopes we have for standards of morality in our culture are far from what we see now, and most likely, will even get worse in the future.

But, let me encourage you to keep to your faith. Although we are meant to influence this world in righteous living and peace, our citizenship is really found in another place, a Heavenly one. And though our motives are loving, the truth is often times we will be misunderstood, and even, resented. If nothing else, it just confirms the reality of the spiritual warfare that exists.

Are “cedar-paneled homes” wrong to have?

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I enjoy nice things. I enjoy the feeling of sitting in a luxury car (although I don’t have one) where I feel like I’m a more important person just by sitting in it. I’ve been in people’s homes that were so luxurious that if Mary Poppins were with me she would say “Walter, you are not a codfish”. I enjoy luxury items.

I bring this up because of the very subtle temptation it can be (for me anyway) to shift my allegiance from thoughts of God and the eternal things of life (people) that really matter to the passing pleasures of the things of this world. Sadly to say, the potential is there for each of us to concern ourselves so much with our comforts that we neglect what should be our highest priority of seeking and serving God.

As I look at the Bible, I understand that there were instances where the nation of Israel also struggled with this issue.

*God cautions the Israelites this very thing in Deuteronomy 8:11-14 (NASB)when He says, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

* or in Haggai, chapter 1 (NASB), when God says, “3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!

Just think of it–people can be so caught up with enjoying their material comforts that they can forget about the Living God.

Just to be clear, the issue I’m bringing up is not whether there is a problem in having nice, even really nice things. I don’t think there is. But, what I do need to be aware of (and you too) is “what are my priorities”?

If my passion tends to be more on my stuff than on developing my relationship with God, I believe that would be a matter of kicking God off His rightful position of honor and substituting something else in place of Him. And how wise is that?

I think the phrase from the verses in Haggai are most relevant for us: “consider your ways!”

What gets you more excited: something you own or your developing your relationship with God and serving Him?
If your passion can be seen by the time invested in it, where are your best hours given: to buying and maintaining stuff or your being in a relationship with God?

Money issues? Sometimes just a little perspective helps

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Sometimes, when it comes to dealing with the stresses of money, a little perspective goes a long way. Here are some notes I took from Andy Stanley’s book, “How to be rich?” :

-anorexia—-the human mind is a powerful, yet fragile thing.–The irony for anorexics is that they’ve already mastered the thing they’re working so hard to achieve. They’re really good at losing weight. But they’re really bad at knowing when to stop. For them, the destination has taken a backseat to the journey. They’re so absorbed in the effort to get thin, they no longer recognize when they ARE thin.
-our civilized, industrialized culture invest the rest of us to compromise rational thought in another way. Not only does it encourage us to be thin, but it also encourages us to be rich. And the richer we become as a nation, the more our priorities seem to separate from what are true needs. Our basic requirements have long since been met, but our appetites for progress haven’t begun to turn off. When we look in the mirror, we see altered versions of what’s really there.

We’re so absorbed in the effort to get rich, we no longer recognize when we are rich.
-for example in our Western culture, …
-What’s more, there are households of three, four, or more people that send only one person out in the workplace to earn money. And with that one person’s earnings, the entire family can amass enough money in 5 days to give them food and shelter for seven days. In many cultures, that’s inconceivable. Outside of work that leaves at least 50 hours for nothing but leisure. …
– a salary of $37K would represent that you are in the top 96% of the world–you are rich.
-bad cell phone coverage–that’s a rich people problem
-where to go on a vacation–that’s a rich people problem
-computer crashed – that’s a rich people problem
-flight delays – that’s a rich people problem
-having a watering ban–that’s a rich people problem—-but just remember that many people, mostly women, carry jugs on their heads for hundreds of yards just so they can water for cooking and drinking. They couldn’t even imagine a place where there is so much water that people spray it over their lawns
-are you grateful?”

Are you at the point of facing big challenges? Deal with it, but how?

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(this is another Bible study/devotional message from my memorizing/meditative efforts in Deuteronomy 4-10)

I have spoken before in these Deuteronomy devotions about the need to consider doing Bible study as you would think about a train, riding on two rails. To get from one destination to the other, trains needs to ride on two rails. So, as we look into the Scriptures, its important for us to view one rail as trying to understand the context of the events taking place in the Bible story. Who is being referred to? What was going on at that time? What was the immediate lesson for those mentioned in the Bible story, etc. The second rail has to do with application. So, what is the take away for me? How do I apply it in my life? We need to look at both rails in our reading of the Bible for it to have its full impact.

Today’s devotion (a little longer than usual) is about Israel’s claiming their rights to the Promised Land and fighting their enemies. Specifically, there were seven pagan nations, “greater and stronger” than the Israelites. They would be a formidable foe. To prepare the Israelites for what they would encounter, God gave them very clear instructions and expectations.

First of all, they would need to acknowledge reality: the nations they were going to be fighting were in fact, “greater and stronger” than them. They were intimidating to look at and most likely, the first reaction the Israelites would experience was that of fear and doubt.

But second of all, God went on to say that in their moment of realization that they were facing an opponent beyond their abilities to handle, they would come to a crisis point of fear. It was as this point, they were to REMEMBER. He said to them that it would be really important for them to pause and remember His faithfulness in their past. He reminded them of when He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh in Egypt, another opponent more powerful than they. He told them to have confidence in Him because He had gotten them through other difficult situations and He would do it again.

Another example in the Bible where someone remembered their past to give them confidence in the future was when King Saul doubted that a young shepherd boy, David was really up to the task of fighting a giant, Goliath. David replied to the king in 1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NASB): “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

God told the Israelites that they should acknowledge their fears. They would have doubts and uncertainties about how they could possibly beat an opponent stronger than they were. God also said when those fears and doubts comes, they should “remember” His past faithfulness. He had gotten them through other tough circumstances. Lastly, God said to the Israelites that they should remember they were not fighting their future battles alone. He would be with them and fight for them. He conveyed to them that it was His Sovereign will for them to have the victory and take control of the land of Promise. The Israelites would be physically fighting the enemies of God, but it would actually be God working behind the scenes, who would be giving the victory to the Israelites.

Let’s make a connection now to our lives and look at that second rail. The application for us is that like the Israelites, we too are called to do battle. Once we come to a point where we understand that in our heart we have been rebellious and disobedient to a Holy God and that in His great mercy and grace, He has saved us by Jesus Christ dying on a cross taking upon Himself the punishment that we deserve, we are saved. We are reconciled to a Holy God who loves us and He gives us the Holy Spirit to come and live within us. We do not need to change before we seek to be reconciled to God. We can never “improve” enough to meet His standards of holiness. However, once we realized we bring nothing to the table and that we can only desperately appeal for His mercy and grace, it is then that we can be reconciled to Him. It is then out of a heart of gratefulness for what Jesus has accomplished for us that we will desire to live lives which will honor Him. It is God’s desire to work in us, and change us. He understands that all the manifestations of our selfishness will only end up hurting us in the long run, so He seeks to free us from them.

The place we will be fighting our battles will be in our mind. It is there that strongholds are formed and solidified. It is these mental mindsets and habits that are contrary to God that have to be conquered. Fortunately, God makes a provision for us in His “battle plan instructions” He gives us. He says in His Word, ”
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
2 Cor. 10:3-5 NASB)

I don’t want to venture too deeply into this, but I will summarize it like this: a person who is not walking with God will tend to make decisions in his brain by what appeals to his body (note: as humans, we are body, soul, and spirit) . He will act out on those things that appeal to his bodily desires, that is, his desire for physical appetites, sexual experiences, and things that excite his senses. A person who does not know God lives in the territory of three very powerful war lords who exert their dominion of power: Satan and his demons, a world culture that seeks to live independently of God, and a sinful nature (the flesh) that is an influence within us that seeks to elevate our selfish desires above all else.

However a person that is born again, is one who has had their spirit awakened to the knowledge of God. In the war room of the soul (where the battle decisions are made), rather than submitting to the impulses of the body ,and the influence of the three war lords (the Devil, the world, and our sinful nature), the mind, guided by the Spirit of God decides to submit to His instructions and promptings.

So, the battles we face are internal. They are really for control of our body and soul (our mind, will, and emotions). Ultimately, the question comes “which ruler (s) do we want (and trust) to be in charge over us: the three warlords (the Devil, the world system, and our sinful flesh), or the Sovereign God who has revealed His lovingkindness and holiness through His written Word (the Bible) and His living Word (Jesus Christ)?

This battle is clearly summarized in Galatians 5:16-26 (NLT). It says:
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

So, with all this in mind, I want to encourage you to do like I have been doing now for the past few years and read and meditate on these many verses from Deuteronomy 4-10. Look to do the 2 rail Bible study method by trying to better understand what is taking place in the Bible story, as well as then its application for today. I believe this will be a rich time for you as you do this study.

I have noted a few key passages from Deut. 4-10 that reference this “conquering the land” them and I would like to encourage you to do the “two rail” Bible study method as you study them. Please keep in mind, the idea is to spend time with these verses. Its not a “read them and move on” exercise. Spend the time with these passages and “hear with your soul (your emotions, will, and mind) what God is saying to the Israelites and to you.
For example, who are the tough enemies you face? What are your biggest temptations? what are those challenges you face that bring you fear because they are more than you can handle (the bold words below have been added by me):

Deuteronomy 7:1-6
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the [earth.

Deut. 7:16 You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

Deut. 7:17-26 – If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the Lord your God brought you out. So shall the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. 21 You shall not dread them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them. 25 The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. 26 You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.

8:1 “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.

9:1 -6 – “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.
“Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.

9:23-24 -When the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.

10:11 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’

Seriously, how bold are your prayers?

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I love this excerpt from “Glory Days” by Max Lucado.

“How bold are your prayers?
Boldness in prayer is an uncombortable thought for many. We think of speaking softly to God, humbling ourselves before God, or having a chat with God… but agonizing before God?? Storming heaven with prayers? Pounding on the door of the Most High? Wrestling with God? Isn’t such prayer irreverent?Presumptuous?
It would be had God not invited us to pray as such. “So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive mercy and to find grace to help us in times of need” Heb. 4:16 tlb”

Guys its time for …

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“Husbands love your wives” (col.3:19-nasb)

Could those 4 words be more direct? It sounds so simple and because most of us have heard an exhortation like this before, probably numerous tiimes, it can be pretty easy to just gloss over those words.

But the Bible does not have as its end goal, the increasing of knowledge into our brain.

The Bible does offer us instruction. It offers us the wisdom of God, but the insights from Almighty God are meant to be practiced.

So, what does “love your wives” mean?

That is yours, and that is my homework assignment. If God says to do it, I think it is our best interest to do so.

So, what does it mean for you, for me, this day to “love our wives”?

Like pushing a car and then popping the clutch to get it running, I want to start us off with a few suggestions on what “loving my wife” means to me.

– It means taking the time to listen to her
– It means spending time with her
– It means going on walks
– It means sharing with her what’s going on in my life
– It means asking for her input
– It means enjoying oneness, physically and emotionally
– It means working together on meeting “agreed upon goals”
– It means…. turn the key now and figure out all that “loving your wife” means to you and get going !

Guys, love your wives!