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Showing posts from November, 2020

Slow to Anger and Quick to Forgive

"And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness'” (Exodus 34:6). "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, 'O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.' But the LORD replied, 'Have you any right to be angry?'" (Jonah 4:1-4). It is good that God does not have a short fuse, or we would all be toast. Jonah was angry with God for having this kind of character. Psalm 103 quotes the passage from Exodus, but with an addition: "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbo

Aspiring to Paul’s Prayer Life

There are many things in the life of the Apostle and his associates I can identify with. However there is one aspect I would like to identify with more. It is their life of prayer. “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12-13). "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving tha

Using God’s Calories

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29). Paul labored and struggled to accomplish the task assigned to him. He did not, however, labor and struggle with his own energy. It was God’s energy which powerfully worked in him. This is like working all day digging ditches or stacking hay but using someone else’s calories and blood sugar. The someone else gets tired while you do the labor. We would like to do it that way. We want to labor and struggle using God’s calories and blood sugar—“all His energy which so powerfully works in me”—and God doesn’t get tired! This post coordinates with tomorrow's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in a daily reading plan, please join us. We would love to have you reading with us.

When Your Brother Sins Against You: God's Teaching on Reconciliation

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over" (Matthew 18:15). These two paragraphs both involve estrangements between you and your brother. In the first passage, the estrangement is your fault (or at the very least your brother thinks it is), because “your brother has something against you.” When you attempt to draw near to God, you find you cannot until you are reconciled. The initiative for reconciliation rests on you. In the second passage, the estrangement is your brother’s fault. He has sinned against you. But the initiative still rests with you. The responsibility to reconcile is yours in both cases. In t

Coveting Your Own Stuff

If I purchase what I covet, I am no longer coveting my neighbor’s stuff. It is mine. "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”' 'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.' Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!' The disciples were

Coveting Your Neighbor’s Stuff (Keep Your Eyes Off That Donkey)

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17). Coveting often precedes purchasing, borrowing, stealing, and cheating. The success of free enterprise and capitalism is largely based upon it. God is not opposed to free enterprise or capitalism, but He is opposed to coveting. This commandment to not covet is very close to the First and Second Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodu

Ready or Not?

  "Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people… 'So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us'” (Acts 10:27, 33). "The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high-ranking officers and the leading men of the city. At the command of Festus, Paul was brought in" (Acts 25:23). Two different audiences gathered to hear the Gospel in these chapters. There was a great difference in the makeup of the audiences. The first was a family, servants, and soldiers; the second was a collection of self-important people. The first group wanted to know God. The second group was curious. One hundred percent of the first group was converted as soon as they heard the gospel. To our knowledge, none of the second group responded. This post coordinates with today's reading in the To

Taking Up Your Cross Daily

  "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God' ” (Luke 9:23-27).   “Take up your cross.” The cross is not an unbearable task, a thorn in the flesh, or something unpleasant. The cross is an instrument of shameful, painful execution. Taking up your cross is voluntary capital punishment. It is a choice we must make. It is willingness to die in shame for the sake of Jesus. We could get out of dying if we were ashamed of Christ, but we would lose our li

Public Prayer

The time and place of public prayer does not seem to be commanded in Scripture, but times and places do occur in Scripture. “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1). One day makes it look like there was daily prayer at three in the afternoon. There is no indication that it was limited to the Sabbath. Here is another occurrence in Acts 16: “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer…. Once when we were going to the place of prayer…. She kept this up for many days” (Acts 16:13, 16, 18). This sounds like they went to the place of prayer daily, including the Sabbath. In the first Scripture, the place was the temple in Jerusalem. The second was a riverside in Macedonia. In these two recorded instances, something wonderful happened. In the first, a crippled man was healed, and two thousand people were converted. In the second, Lydia and her household be

In Remembrance

Making Restitution: Special Cases

When it comes to stealing, the cost to the thief is the value of the stolen goods, plus 20%. That is a high rate of interest, but it is not the highest rate. "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." (Exodus 22:1) The restitution rate is 500% for oxen, 400% for sheep. Why the difference, and why so much? The Bible does not tell us why, but here is a possible reason: Oxen and sheep are alive; they reproduce, pull the plow, provide meat, leather, milk, and wool. When the sheep and oxen are stolen, it is as if all these things are stolen, too. We see two examples of this in Scripture. First, there is David’s reply to the prophet Nathan: "He must pay for that lamb four times over , because he did such a thing and had no pity." (2 Samuel 12:6) The second is Zacchaeus’ statement to Jesus: "But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Her

Once There Was A Man Who Robbed A Bank...

  Once there was a man who robbed a bank. I will not go into details, but the result was $100,000 in his briefcase. Five minutes later, he was walking down the street with the briefcase (and the $100,000) when he encountered an evangelist preaching on the street. He stopped to listen to the gospel proclaimed in love and power. He was convicted and converted. In his new-found joy, he talked with the evangelist and asked him what all this joy meant. The evangelist explained to the man that his sins had been forgiven. “All of them?” he asked. “Yes, all of them,” answered the evangelist. “Oh boy, now I can enjoy this $100,000!” “What $100,000?” “The $100,000 that I just removed from the bank over there.” “OK, let’s take it back.” The story is fiction, but the principle is true. Being forgiven does not mean you get to keep the money. You may think that is obvious. There are two reasons it is obvious in the story:             1. It was $100,000 (grand larceny).             2. It was ten minu

When Is It OK to Take Offense?

  I received this question from a reader of How to Be Free from Bitterness . It may apply to some of you as well. "Generally speaking, should we continuously place ourselves in the company of those who repeatedly offend us?" This question involves at least two issues. They have to do with the kind of person you are. 1.        Do you take offense easily, even when someone has no intent to offend? 2.        Do you not take offense easily, even when someone wants to offend? If you are the first, the solution lies with you , not with the offender. The best way to keep from being hurt is to stay vulnerable, like a pillow. Do not try to build a fence around yourself. That is the way to get hurt more. That is the way to become hard-hearted and cynical. A fence (or wall) is a means of resistance, which means there will be a collision, which means hurt. If you avoid the temptation to take offense by staying away from people who repeatedly offend you, it may mean staying

What If the Bitterness Comes Back?

  "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32). Reader question: If you have a deep-rooted bitterness and have thought you have forgiven, but it still surfaces occasionally, do you at that moment repent and ask for cleansing? I am frustrated with thinking that I have forgiven an offense and then realizing that I have not dug out the root. You might be holding onto the root of bitterness. In that case, you must confess it immediately. On the other hand, you may have truly forgiven the sin that made you bitter when you first confessed your bitterness. After you are forgiven for bitterness, you can still be tempted to be bitter again . This is like confessing a lie and then lying again later. It is not the same sin. It does not mean you were not forgiven the first time. As long as this temptation wor