Marriage Isn’t For You

Marriage Isn’t For You.

This was a great article about an important lesson the author learned about marriage. It is a very counter-cultural message told very well through a story that kept me anticipating what would happen next. He did a great job of throwing some surprises and twists in the narrative. Check it out and enjoy.

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Don’t Forget God’s Love & Kindness

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I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.

Isaiah 63:7

The reason why Isaiah had to write this prophecy is because Israel did not agree with verse seven. They did not see in God the source of their blessing, prosperity, and protection so they wandered off the path He set for them. Christians can learn important lessons from this passage of prayer and praise.

Our prayers to God should always include mention of His love towards us and thanksgiving for what He has done for us. When we forget this it isn’t long before we are disappointed and frustrated with what God hasn’t done for us. Our focus becomes fixated on what we want, which happens to be what we don’t have, and we treat God like our butler.

I believe this view causes us to see God as impotent because we are only interested in what He will do for our agenda. We have made our life plans for education, career, and social status without consulting God at all and we expect Him to deliver it like it’s a pizza. We are certainly not interested in His purposes for us.

Remembering His lovingkindnesses to us in the past helps us build our trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. It connects the scriptures with real-life consequences, showing us that we can trust in His power to sustain, deliver, and bless us. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this but I know now that when I look back that I see many times when the Lord has delivered me from my troubles. I get encouraged when I remember that God has a perfect record and always will.

Paul emulates this example well when he often mentions his thanks to God for various things. He is a thankful man to God for what He has done and the people He has put in Paul’s life and ministry.

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…

Ephesians 1:6

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Philippians 1:3; 4:6

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you…

Colossians 1:3

Going Through The Motions

 

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If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 57:13,14

In chapter 57 the Lord tells us that He is with those who are contrite and humble. Only those who know they are broken truly see the character of God in a special way. You cannot fake that and you definitely cannot fool God. Therefore it makes sense that the next thing God does is warn Israel about their insincere worship.

The main point of verses 1-7 is that the people outwardly obey but there is no change in their hearts. They go through all the rituals but it is only lip service. They don’t really mean it. But you cannot truly serve God and become more bitter, self-righteous, and angry. Your character should reflect back on the Lord and cause men to glorify Him.

In verses 8-14 God is telling Israel to stop paying Him lip service and draw near with their hearts. The end of the law is love, as Paul writes, but they do not give their bread to the hungry or open their homes to strangers. They are not acting like the people He wants them to be.

It is easy to forget that following Christ is a process of sanctification. God is daily shaping us into the image of Christ. As we become mature in our faith we should bear the fruit of communion with Him. God is love and when we serve Him we become filled with His love. People should see our kindness and compassion to the brethren, the poor, and the needy.

Our ministry for the Lord should change us and it should change us for the better. The Gardener does not tend to His vineyard without the expectation of bearing fruit. God has a vision for His church and if we are not characterized by the love we have for the brethren then we are not truly serving the Lord.

You need to know what kind of person God wanted to you be and use that to gauge whether you are being obedient to Him.

God Will Have Mercy, Not Sacrifice

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Thus saith thy Lord the lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again.

Isaiah 51:22

Note: I wasn’t able to get some time in to study in the morning so here is the aforementioned thoughts I had promised last night on the Facebook page. If you haven’t been there please check it out: https://www.facebook.com/bibliablogger. You’ll see all of the posts here on the webpage but also extra good stuff that is not on the blog. There you will see links to interesting articles I find from around the web, among other things.

I think understanding this part of Isaiah was as much of a challenge for the people in Isaiah’s lifetime as it is in ours. For them this was the unthinkable, the worst case scenario. For us, it is an obscure historical reference that is so distant it does not seem relevant. Its meaning was significant to the Jews living in exile.

This message is as much for those who were in Babylon when they read this as it is for anyone. They needed the reminder that God knew this would happen and that He is in control even in the most desperate of times. They also needed the hope that His promise of deliverance would bring.

He threatened to punish the people for their disobedience and He did exactly that. Being the merciful God that He is, now the promise is to take the cup that His people drank from and give it to their oppressors. I believe that God does this, in part, because He does not get glory from destroying His people but from showing that He has the power to deliver them who trust in Him.

Jesus quotes Hosea 6 in Matthew 12 when He tells the Pharisees that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. As long as we draw breath God’s hand of redemption is stretched out. Religious people think they do not need God’s help but those who truly know Him know that He wants them to take His hand. We are restored when we remember God’s nature and put our lives into His hands, as did the prodigal son with his father.

It is only a matter of time before you find yourself away from God’s presence. The funny thing is that we do everything we can to deal with the guilt and shame before we finally give up and repent from it. We can save ourselves the heartache by remembering that the Lord wants us to immediately turn back to Him.

The Lord is already running to meet us with open arms. He is not waiting or expecting us to fix ourselves up before we go back to Him. Never forget that He is pleased with us for Christ’s sake and not because of our own merit. We do not have to earn His favor because we already have it.

Justified: In Real Life

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He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

Isaiah 50:8

In this chapter we see a contrast between sinful Israel and the obedient Servant of the Lord. One of the differences is that the Servant, who is Jesus, knows His standing with God. He completely trusts in the Lord.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1

This confidence in God’s grace and justification extends to followers of Christ. We now have the same privilege of being acceptable in God’s eyes because of Christ’s righteousness. This is absolutely crucial to remember if we are going to resist the accuser of the brethren.

We must also keep in mind that God desires to justify us and bring us near to Him. He is not looking for a way to trip us up and cause us to fail. He is not stern and mean like some grumpy old man. He is fierce to the wicked but He is tender to any who call on His name. He keeps no one at arm’s length but He does welcome us with open arms.

God Is Not Finished With You

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Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Isaiah 50:1

God’s faithfulness is a source of comfort and hope and a reason why we praise Him. It is also a very difficult and painful lesson to learn. The reason it is so painful is because you realize how much God will allow you to endure and it will be more than you ever considered.

He will take you through the worst case scenario and let you spend more time in it than you want. You will go past what you think is your breaking point and then some. All the while, though, God is making His arrangements for you. Soon enough you see His hand at work through a major breakthrough.

This part of the prophecy in Isaiah is for Israel in exile but was written when they were still in the land and dwelled carelessly. They did not trust God and they had yet to go through the painful lesson to learn that God is faithful. For the Jews in Babylon who were desperate for a reason to be hopeful this was a prophecy that was too good to be true. It sounded nice but it was just unbelievable.

Nevertheless the prophet was hopeful and his faith was based on the passage in Psalm 22:27-29. God comforts those who are being scorned as they continue to serve Him faithfully, as did the remnant under Babylonian rule. He reminds them, and us, that He will have the last laugh and we will be rewarded for enduring to the end.

You will know you’re trusting God because it feels like your life is unraveling. Nothing is happening the way you had planned or hoped. You may even be greatly suffering. God has not forgotten you and, in fact, He is preparing something glorious for you. As with Daniel in chapter 10 of his book, there may be a delay in answering the prayer that was immediately heard but it’s only a delay. The more bitter the pain the more sweet the victory.

What Is A Disciple Of Christ?

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If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26, 27

Jesus demands total commitment when He calls us to be His disciples. That means everything we do must please Him. It also means that everything we do has to be in obedience to His teachings. Our highest loyalty has to be to Him.

I need to point out that when Jesus says we must hate our families He is not talking about extreme animosity. The Greek word translated hate actually means to love less. We are to love our families, friends, and our very lives less than we love Jesus.

I never appreciated the significance of this commandment before I had begun to put my trust in The Lord in a practical way. I realized that my family was as much of an obstacle to serving The Lord as any temptation. It was eye-opening to realize that those who are believers in Christ, though they be well-intentioned, will lead you astray.

We see an example of this from Jesus’ own life in the gospel according to John:

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judæa, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

John 7:2-8

Another example comes from Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He turned water into wine:

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:3,4

Our loved ones often offer solutions derived from their own clever minds rather than encouraging us to be faithful. They assume, like the world, that there is a formula for solving problems or achieving goals and we need to simply follow it. Sometimes we have to give God a little help.

Jesus, however, calls us to wait on the Lord. We are supposed to follow His example of going places, doing works, and saying things only when God commands us. Jesus knew that the Father would provide everything He needed at the right time and entrusted everything to His care. He concerned Himself with being obedient to how God commands us to live through His word.

You probably have family and friends who are telling you what you need to do to get a job, to marry the right person, or to be happy. Unless it is their responsibility to provide you with it you need to take what worries you to God in prayer. If you need something then you should be harassing God about it every day.

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Under the Mosaic covenant the Jews had to bring animals sacrifices to offer God but as disciples of Christ we are the sacrifice, a living sacrifice offered up daily. I think that when Jesus said He testifies that the works of the world are evil He was doing so by the way He lived, completely surrendered to the will of God at every moment. The way of the world is to do what you think is right when you want to do it but Christ’s is to do what the Father wants when He wants us to do it. That’s what it takes to be His disciple.

Faith Worketh By Love

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It is important that we understand how important love is given that John stresses it. In a sense, love is what it’s all about. Without it there is no point in believing in the gospel. There is nothing more useless than a church that does not have love. Love is the ultimate ethic and its presence among the brethren is central to the practical vision for the church on Earth.

In 1 John 3 we read that love is the litmus test for a genuine faith in Christ. John tells us that he who has no love in him abideth in death. Also, anyone who hates his brother has no life abiding in him. James writes also that without this love our faith is dead. Our love for the brethren is the indication that we have passed from death unto life. We should look for that in the life of anyone who professes to believe in Jesus.

Love is practical and it’s about what we do for each other. It is not simply nice words and kind feelings. We love each other by meeting needs. A cursory online search I did showed that between 10% and 25% of Christians tithe regularly, depending on denomination and other classifications. While I do not believe that Christians are required to tithe as Jews were that is because we are expected to give 100%, not only of our income but our time, possessions, ability, and effort. Whether someone needs a ride or a home to live in we should be ready and willing to provide. We all have something to offer so we need to be willing to give when the occasion calls for it.

God’s vision for the church is a community of believers who love each other. Without love we are simply autonomous consumers of spiritual entertainment or therapy. The church service becomes a transaction, a show with an admission. Membership has no privileges and I think this necessarily means that discipline becomes impossible because there are no consequences to leaving a church. Without love the church falls apart and becomes ineffective, powerless because the Holy Spirit is not at work. Ultimately this means that the gospel is not being preached and people are not being saved.

Who Are The Sons Of God?

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In this passage John is talking about the love of God and how we know that we are His sons. His threefold test is includes practical righteousness, brotherly love, and the confession that Jesus has come in the flesh. It is virtually identical to the previous portion of the letter where he uses this same criteria to show how know that we have fellowship with God. We can then deduce that God’s sons also have fellowship with Him.

Much of what I have read on this passage uses it to distinguish between Christians and unbelievers. It is supposed to show that you can identify a Christian because he is not engaged in sin in an ongoing fashion. I think that’s part of what John is writing here but I think his point goes beyond. John uses sweeping language that makes you ask where to draw the line between struggling with sin and deliberately sinning.

I believe that John here is drawing contrasts between the son of God and the son of the devil to edify us. We are now sons of God and a son of God is born of Him. God is righteous and there is no sin Him and as children reflect their parents so must we resemble our holy Father. That means there can be no sin in us, only righteousness. These are ideals which should imperfectly manifest themselves in believers.

John tells us that sin is incompatible with being a child of God for several reasons in 3:4-9. Sin is a transgression against the law. There is no sin in Jesus, who was manifested to take away our sins. Those who sin have not seen God and do not know Him. They are the ones whom Christ will turn away at the judgment even though they appeared to be His followers. As mentioned earlier, those who sin are of the devil and Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Lastly, we who are born of God have His seed in us and thus cannot sin.

When you read through the letter it becomes very clear by the repetition that love, righteousness, and the confession that Jesus has come in the flesh are the qualities that distinguish the disciples of Christ. I am reminded of Paul’s contrast between the spiritual and carnal mind in Romans 8. He says there that if we have the spirit of Christ in us then our flesh has died and we are now a new creation. Likewise, we are now made sons of God, and yet it is also an ongoing, unfolding process which will be complete at Jesus’ return. So I think a good summary of this is that we are righteous and also becoming righteous.