Reading the Old Testament – Genesis

Genesis…the book of beginnings.Genesis

The point of this post is to give you some pointers that might be helpful in your reading of Genesis.

1.  Creation.  The creation story is written to tell you the “who” of creation.  If you are the original audience (Israel, waiting to enter the promised land) what is your understanding of Genesis 1-2?  Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” serves as a summary of chapters 1 & 2, but more importantly it is a powerful theological statement.  The main point would be that God is Creator.  The creation is his.  We are his. He has the right to make claim on our lives about the type of people we are to be; what we are to do; how we are to worship him only; etc.

2. Book layout.  Genesis divides between chapters 11 & 12.

Chapters 1-11 contain early human history mainly focusing on four topics: creation (1-2), origin and spread of sin (3-5), the flood (6-9), the nations after flood (10-11). The primary purpose of chapters 4-11 is to trace the godly lineage (Adam -> Seth -> Noah -> Shem -> Abram) through which redemption will come.

Chapters 12-50 contain the beginning of God’s unfolding plan to redeem humanity from its sin.  This plan centers on Abraham (12-25:18) and his descendants, Isaac (25:19-26:35), Jacob (27-36), and Joseph (37-50).  Look for the concepts of faith, God’s sovereignty, and the failings of human effort in chapters 12-50.

3. Reading a character.  When reading a story we often tend to try and find ourselves within it.  Let me state it clearly:  The hero of the Bible is God.  The Bible is God’s self-revelation to us.  It is his book.  It is about him.  Please don’t make yourself the hero of the story.  Here’s a prime example I’ve heard many times: we take the story of David and Goliath and end up talking about how we can slay our metaphorical giants.  No and no.  Let it be about God and his work.  When you read about Abraham and the well known characters in Genesis, ask these questions instead…

1. How was God working to create faith in the character’s life?

2. What weaknesses did the character need to submit to God?

3. What things did God do in the character’s life that were counter-intuitive to how we normally expect the world to operate?

Here’s a link to the introductory post on general guidelines for reading the Old Testament.

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Reading the Old Testament – General Guidelines

At our church we are reading thru the Old Testament together in 2014.  Click here to get the 2014 Old Testament Reading Plan.

I will post a blog as we come to each book of the Old Testament in the reading plan.  The posts will mainly offer some tips on how to best read that particular book of the Old Testament.  I am doing this because we are not familiar with the Old Testament.

This introductory post will offer up a few thoughts about reading the OT in general.

Posture

1.  Prayer.  This is not unique to the Old Testament.  Any time you open the Bible you should ask God to speak.  It is his book.  And since he wrote it, we should ask him to guide us as we read.  I’ve always loved this 3-fold prayer from Psalm 119:

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Ps. 119:18)

Make me understand the way of your precepts (Ps. 119:27)

Incline my heart to your testimonies (Ps. 119:36)

2.  Expectation.  I’ve done Bible reading plans before.  Do the reading.  Get the satisfaction from checking the box.  How about something different?  How about expecting that God will speak to you through his Word as you read it.  If you begin with prayer asking him to open your eyes to his Word, a natural expectation is that he will speak to you each day.

How to Read the Old Testament

1.  OLD.  Remember it’s old, just like its title says.  Parts of the Old Testament date back 3,500 years.  And in those years many things have changed.  The Old Testament has a unique culture, unique customs, its own idioms, etc.  It’s thought patterns and approach to life are thoroughly non-modern and non-Western.

This means that you need to find a good study Bible to help you bridge all of the gaps between the world of the Old Testament and the world that we live in now.  You can go to the NET Study Bible online for free if you don’t have a study Bible.

2.  Christ.  It’s always good as you read passages of the Old Testament to consider how Jesus Christ has fulfilled the OT.  It is not possible (nor healthy) on this side of the cross to read the Old Testament without thinking about the person that it all points forward to.  One, admittedly over simplified, view of the way the OT and NT work together is this…the OT is promises made.  The NT is promises kept.

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Wisdom – Sin

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? – Proverbs 20:9

Wisdom SinProverbs has quite a bit to say about sin and the removal of sin.  The proverb above seeks to bring self-awareness to the wise person, who is also  righteous and may sometimes be tempted to be self-righteous.   Do you see yourself as a sinner?

Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one”

Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

It is easy to see the sins of other people.  Sin is all around us, and it’s often rather obvious to us when people are in sin.  But what about our own sin?  Do you perceive your own sinfulness?  Jesus asks a pointed question about this in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

We need to be honest with ourselves about our sin.  Here is one of the truest statements I’ve seen about my own sin…”Looking at another sinner, I can perhaps say, ‘I haven’t done that.’ But I can’t say, ‘I couldn’t do that.'” – Ray Ortlund

The reformer Martin Luther was keenly aware of his own sin, “I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, his name is Self.”

So, let’s just start with the most basic idea: I am a sinner (nature), and I commit sin (actions).  From there the path to taking care of our sin is through confession and atonement.

Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Atonement

Not only do we need to confess our sins, but there actually has to be something that happens to take care of the sin.  That something is called atonement.

“Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.” – Proverbs 14:9.  This verse references the guilt offering.  A description of the guilt offering may be found in Leviticus 5:14-6:7.  It’s exactly like it sounds…if you’re guilty of sin, then you must make this offering to atone for the sin.  This proverb implies that an upright person practices confession of sin and seeks atonement for sin, while the fool mocks the ideas of confession and atonement.

So what is the offering that atones for our sin?

We do not measure sin by comparing one person with another, or by how good we might feel about ourselves. We measure the seriousness of sin by the price required to atone for it.  Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God, is the atonement for our sin.

Many people have the roadblock to receiving forgiveness and atonement of sin… “I’m too messed up.”  Your sin & failures do not disqualify you from salvation.  They are your only qualification. That’s why Jesus came.

1 Timothy 1:15 is one of the most personally applicable and true verses in the Bible.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

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Wisdom – The Heart

ProverbstheHeartDo you ever wonder how God sees you or what God wants from you?  Religions the world around try to answer this question.

There are a few things that all religions do in common.  One of those things is sacrifice.  The general concept behind sacrifices is that you can make the deity happy by giving him something.

On the Areopagus in Athens, surrounded by statues of pagan deities who all demanded sacrifice, the Apostle Paul preached this in Acts 17:24-25,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

I want you to consider with me in this post that God doesn’t want something from you, rather God is looking for you to be somebody who is upright in heart and character.

Let’s look at these 3 things: Heart & Hands, How God Sees, What God Wants

Heart & Hands

Heart = who we are         Hands = what we do

Proverbs 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.”

Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

These verses are about who you are as a person.  Did you notice in these verses that God responds to our sacrifices and prayers based on the condition of our hearts, based on who we are?  External acts of worship, even if completely in line with what the Bible prescribes, are repulsive to God when the heart of the worshipper is wicked.  And according to Proverbs 15:9, wickedness or righteousness is a lifestyle choice.

The reason God hates these kinds of “acts of worship” is because they are a lie.  They are done in pretense or for show.  It’s not who you are.   Jesus dealt with it on a regular basis – highly religious people who had no heart…

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, – Matthew 15:7-9

How God Sees Us

We can fool each other.  You can do things to impress me.  You can make me think you are someone that you are not.  And it’s not really that difficult.  You see, we make decisions about people based on what we see on the outside: clothes you wear, job you have, way you talk, things you do, etc.

God see us differently…

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7

No one has the ability to fool God.

What God Wants

The prophet Micah asked the question, “What does God want?”

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” – Micah 6:6-7

He came to the conclusion that God is not looking for something from you.  God is looking for you to be somebody.  He wants you to be a person of justice, kindness, and humility before him.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Proverbs reaffirms this as well.  God is not looking for us to give him something, but rather he wants us to be a certain type of people.  Proverbs 21:3, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

God doesn’t want something from you, rather God is looking for you to be somebody who is upright in heart and character.

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Wisdom – Life Decisions

Life DecisionsI think it is the general desire of Christians to please our Lord in all our decisions.  But we wrestle with the “how”.  God doesn’t make our decisions for us or tell us what to do.  That’s what it means to be human.

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

So you want to know how to make major life decisions?  Proverbs has 3 things to tell you.  Then I’m going to add a 4th from other parts of the Bible.

1. Life revolves around God, not you.

Let’s look at Proverbs 16:1-9.

Verse 1 & 9 are like brackets around all of 1-9, and they basically say this, “We can make plans, but God’s will is definitive.”  When I was 18, my plans were to pursue an engineering career and make lots of money.  I looked through lenses that said, “I am the center of the world.”   God had other plans.  Guess who won???

Verse 2 presents a contrast between our perception of ourselves and God’s view of us.

Verse 3 teaches us that all life-planning and decision-making should be done with an open hand and a willingness to change when God shows us a different plan.

Do you have any blind spots?  The problem with blind spots is that we can’t see them.  So we need to ask someone else who we have a good relationship with to help us out.

2. Faith is required.

Are you trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for your eternal salvation, so that you don’t spend eternity in hell paying for your sins?  Any problems trusting him with that?  Then why does it seem that we are allergic to faith in this life?  We may say that we want to do God’s will, but at the same time be unwilling to make a faith step in the direction he is leading.  It doesn’t work that way.  Doing God’s will in your decisions and actions requires faith.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is written at the beginning of the post.  “Trust God…don’t lean on your own understanding.” Does God know things you don’t know?  Does God know the future? Do you?  The questioning could go on.  If you’re leaning on something and it falls what happens to you?  You fall.  This is why we need to have faith in God as we make decisions even if everything is not clear or logical to us.

Will your own knowledge ever fail you?  Proverbs 14:12 seems applicable.

Will God ever fail you?

Don’t be afraid to make decisions in faith.  God is with you and God is for you.  You can have faith in him.

3. Who You Are Is Most Important

The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. – Proverbs 11:5-6

Let’s be real clear because there seems to be a misunderstanding in Christian circles…your lifestyle and your holiness matters.  You will stand before the Lord and give account for the way you lived.

It’s crazy to go before the Lord asking him for wisdom about making big decisions if you don’t plan on living your life for him.  Don’t ask him to guide you in career and job decisions if you don’t plan on living a holy life.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that God cares more about who you are (character) than what you do.

4. God is with you and God is for you.

As you make big life decisions you need to have these 2 truths in your back pocket.  So often we feel like God has dropped us in the middle of a labyrinth and told us not to mess up or make any wrong turns.  Where do we get this from?

God is with you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“…I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

God is for you.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:31-32

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Wisdom – Finishing Well

FinishingWell“It’s paradoxical, that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” – Andy Rooney

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us to do all things to the glory of God.  Ok.  Well, how do you get old to the glory of God?  How do you finish this life well to the glory of God?  I want to consider 2 things with you in this post on finishing well.  First, what is the Christian perspective on old age, and second, how can we practically finish well?

The Christian Perspective on Old Age

1. Old Age is Good

This of course flies in the face of our culture today which exalts youth and focuses on the beauty of youthful bodies.  Listen to what Proverbs has to say:

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. – Prov. 16:31

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. – Prov. 20:29

Proverbs 20:29 uses a type of parallelism where the second line intensifies the first line.  So this verse is saying that old age is even better than youth b/c of the wisdom available to those who are old.

2. Listen to Those Ahead of You

Listening is how we grow.  “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” – Proverbs 19:20

Advice seems to be everywhere.  It is important to know who to listen to.  In a way, people need to have earned the right to speak into your life.  They need to be invested in you in some way.  “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” – Proverbs 23:22

How to Finish Well

Proverbs says that old age is a blessing and tells us to listen to those older than us, but Proverbs doesn’t really tell us what to do with old age.  The New Testament fills in this gap for us.

1. The Goal Is to Finish

There must be something more than a vague, “I just want a long life and an easy death.”  Consider how the apostle Paul was focused on finishing…

Acts 20:24 – AD 55, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Philippians 3:14-15 – AD 61 (prison), “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way”

2 Timothy 4:6-7 – AD 64, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I want you to grab a pen. Write down the number of years that you think you have remaining to live on this earth.  Now say, “There is a finish line.”

I have a very serious question for you…What will you do with the future years that God gives to you?  One day you will step into eternity, and on that finishing day only things done for the Lord will matter.  Perhaps you have heard the old poem, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  The goal is to finish.  Focus on the finish line.

2. You Will Be Remembered for How You Finish, Good or Bad

Practically, our memories of people usually are strongest with what is most recent.  That’s the way we’re built.  Think of your grandparents.  What do you remember?  Perhaps their last decade.

We don’t have time for it here, but I invite you to read the story of King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26.  It’s a tragic story of a man who served the Lord well and was blessed by God, but his pride got the best of him and led to his fall.  The Lord struck him with leprosy.  He was not remembered for all the good stuff.  But he was buried and remembered with the words, “He is a leper.” (2 Chron. 26:23)

3. Before You Finish…

God is not done with you if you’re still here.  What do you need to do now?  Here’s a few ideas:

  • Inspire faith for the next generation.  Show children and grandchildren what a man or woman of faith looks like and how to finish well.
  • Put pride aside and reconcile with people.  It’s worth it for you and the other person.
  • Do what needs to be done.  What (or who) have you been putting off?  We don’t always have tomorrow.  Don’t let your “I want to” become “I wish I had”.
  • <add your own ideas here>

The goal is to finish and hear our Lord say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  The day is coming soon!

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Wisdom – Children & Parenting

One Generation Away graphic

Parents have a very unique position.  They get to shape and mold the lives of other human beings.  Think about the power of that for a minute.  Whatever you put in, you will get out…years down the road.  Children are only small for a short season.

The Lord is going to show us from Proverbs the 3 primary spiritual responsibilities that parents have.  Yes, there are other responsibilities in the physical realm, but Proverbs focuses on our spiritual responsibilities.

1. Parents need to be spiritually mature.

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. – Proverbs 14:26

The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! – Proverbs 20:7

It’s hard to pass down what you don’t possess.  Your spiritual maturity as a parent will be seen by your children.

2. Parents need to teach & train their children in the Lord.

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” – Proverbs 4:1-5

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

When reading Proverbs it is important to remember that the truths of Proverbs function as general principles of the way things work and not absolute promises of the way things work.  Proverbs 22:6 is an excellent example.  Generally, when parents train their children in the ways of the Lord, that is the way that they live their adult lives.  But this is not always true.  If not properly understood, Proverbs 22:6 will become a sledgehammer of guilt and questioning – something it was never intended to be.

3. Parents need to discipline their children.

This would be rather unpopular for us “enlightened” people in the 21st century.  Nonetheless, discipline is an important part of parenting.  Children are not born in a condition of perfection.  They are born sinful and must learn the ways of the Lord.  This requires correction when they err.  (more on this at end of post)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12

The parent’s discipline seeks to refine the child.  But ultimately, a parent should seek a child that is self-disciplined and under the Lord’s discipline.  In a way, the discipline that a parent gives to a child should prepare the child for independence from the parents and dependence on the Lord.  That dependence on the Lord means that the child will understand the loving nature of the Lord’s discipline because he/she experienced the loving nature of his/her own parents’ discipline.

How???

What are some practical ways that we live out these 3 spiritual responsibilities?  Here are a few suggestions.

1. Nurture your own spiritual life.  As stated above, it’s hard to pass down what you don’t have.  You need to drink from the fountains and be strong in the Lord for your children.  Do your kids ever see your spiritual life in action?  For example, do they see dad or mom reading the Bible?

2. Don’t abandon the church!  The church is a life-giving place (or should be – another topic).  Parents need to communicate the critical importance of the church to their children.  It is popular today to like Jesus but not want to have anything to do with the church.  But the church is the bride of Christ.  You don’t tell a man that you like him and want to hang out with him, but you don’t want to have anything to do with his wife.  Communicate to your kids both verbally and thru attendance that the church is important.

3. Make it a whole family thing.

4. Work with everyday life.  Everything is spiritual and every moment is teachable if you embrace it.  Have fun!

5. When you discipline…

  • It should always, always, always be redemptive in nature.
  • Never discipline in anger
  • All discipline should be fully explained.  We make our children tell us why they are being disciplined.
  • Don’t leave your kids after you discipline them.  Discipline must be individualized to each child, but whatever form it takes…embrace your children after you discipline them.  Tell them you love them.  Don’t let them be alone.  Be with them.
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Wisdom – Intro to Proverbs

***List of topical posts in this series is linked at bottom of this post.***

Have you ever made a bad decision?  Ok, dumb question.  Wisdom is skill in the art of living life.  There is a book of the Bible that is devoted to teaching wisdom.  It is the book of Proverbs.  The point of Proverbs is to teach you wisdom so that you will live well in the world and honor God all the days that you live.

As we kick off this series on Wisdom, let me give you 4 truths about wisdom in general…

1. God is the source of wisdom

The commonly accepted belief about the source of wisdom is that wisdom comes from old age.  But is this true?  “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” — H. L. Mencken

The experiences of life can bring lots of learning if you have first have the wisdom to grow from life’s experiences.  The Bible says this: God is the source of wisdom and we should urgently seek wisdom from him.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. – Proverbs 2:6

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10

2. Wisdom sits above Law

Laws have the ability on the surface level to create a civilized person and even a civilized society.  But this is only surface level.  Take away the laws and you see a person’s true humanity come out.  Consider what happens after any natural disaster when our law enforcement is unable to do it’s job.  Example…looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2005.

Wisdom is superior to Law because laws are external forces that force a person to conform to a standard, but wisdom is internal within a person.  Wisdom can truly change a person from the heart.  Laws can never touch the heart.

3. God’s wisdom is different than the world’s wisdom

Worldly wisdom would be the common thinking of the world, the common responses and actions and ways of getting things done in the world.  God’s ways are different.

  • What do you do when someone comes to arrest Jesus for his crucifixion?  As Peter did, you draw your sword to fight.  Jesus tells him to put it away.
  • What do you do when 5,000 people must be fed and you’re out in the countryside?  Send them away to the town to buy food.  Jesus has a different way.
  • The list of examples could go on…

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile’.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20

The Christian life cannot be lived by worldly wisdom and the church cannot be run on worldly wisdom.  You need God’s wisdom everyday.

4. Jesus is the wisdom of God on display.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:20-24

You cannot have God’s wisdom or truly be wise apart from Christ.  God’s mission in this world always and in every way revolves around Christ.  Jesus said that no one comes to God, except through him.  So as we start this journey of learning wisdom from the Lord, the most important question is this, “Have you surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom and power of God?”

Topical List of Posts

Children & Parenting

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The Devil’s Tool Box

Many years ago I read a book by C.S. Lewis called “The Screwtape Letters“.  It’s a book about the Christian life.  It is unique though because it evaluates the Christian life from the perspective of 2 demons in their attempt to fight against a particular man.

I want to consider with you 4 of the most well-worn tools that the devil uses to fight a spiritual war against Christians.  These four are: Deception, Doubt, Discouragement, and Distraction

Deception

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:44

The devil can only lie.  When he opens his mouth he always speaks in lies.  He will lie about anything and everything, particularly about the necessity of salvation.

Doubt

Jesus tells us that we should have faith as a child.  Have you ever noticed how pure and perfect a child’s belief is?  It’s beautiful.  And then what happens when we become adults?  We become skeptics: skeptics about God, skeptics about people, skeptics about life.

Doubt is deadly.  Check out Hebrews 3:7-19.  Verse 12 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

Deception and doubt general work in tandem.  Look at Genesis 3:1-4…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

In the fall of humanity into sin, the devil used both doubt and deception.  These are his primary tools.  Doubt and deception are almost always attacks on the character of God and the Word of God.  You can trust God and you can trust God’s Word.

Discouragement

Discouragement usually comes from 2 sources: circumstances & people. We can’t do anything about the circumstances in other people’s lives, but we can do something about the person we are around others and when speaking to others.  I want to ask you to commit to something right here, right now.  I want you to commit to the Lord that you will not be a discouragement to anyone.

What about the circumstances?  Check out these Scriptures…

Take heart!  Be encouraged!

Distraction

If he can’t deceive us or cause us to doubt God and he can’t discourage us in this life, then he will gladly settle for distracting us…even with good things.

Here’s what a focused life looks like…

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Concluding Thought

Be aware of the devil’s tactics.  And may we all echo with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

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Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

SpiritualDisciplines

Matthew 4:1-4

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 6:16-18

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Foundational Idea of Fasting

Feasting on the Bread of Life

I think the passage of Scripture in Matthew 4 is so important.  This passage teaches us that there is food other than just the stuff we put in our stomach.  We must also feed our souls before God.  And I think some of us are starving.

If you make fasting about the lack of food then you miss the whole point!!!  The purpose of fasting is to bring ourselves in humility and affliction before God, and to feast in his presence.

Fasting is one of the more important ways of practicing that self-denial required of everyone who would follow Christ. (Matthew 16:24) “Deny self” is a vague idea.  Fasting is a practical, concrete application of that idea.

Fasting is an issue of Christian freedom.  You don’t have to fast.  When I say, “Fasting is not required of the Christian life” please don’t hear, “Fasting is not important.”  Many of the most important things in life are not laws that we must follow.

Practically Speaking…

While fasting from Facebook, TV, internet, etc. is a good thing and probably a needed thing in our world today, when the Bible speaks about fasting it is referring to food.  There are many ways and degrees of fasting.  The normal practice of fasting is to abstain from all food, solid and liquid, but not from water.  Please know your own body.  You may need to speak with a medical professional before doing this.

Let me give you some examples of fasting durations.

  • Lunch fast – self-explanatory
  • 24-hour fast (miss 2 meals) – Example: You eat breakfast Monday and skip lunch and dinner.  Then you eat breakfast Tuesday.  It’s been 24 hours.
  • Waking day fast (36 hour fast) – Example: You eat dinner Monday night.  You don’t eat at all when you’re awake on Tuesday.  You eat breakfast Wednesday morning.  It’s been 36 hours of fasting.
  • 3-day fast – another common duration of fasting.
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