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Archive for October, 2013

Anyone Can Fall

Scripture:  Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (MSG)

 

Observation:  Fall. Self-confidence is dangerous. This is illustrated in the case of Peter, who thought that nothing could cause him to swerve from his allegiance to Christ (see Mark 14:31, 50, 67, 68, 70–72). All should heed the warning and be on guard continually, lest they be deceived by the suggestion that they have reached such a state of spiritual strength that nothing can lead them to sin. True safety lies only in the recognition of one’s absolute helplessness apart from Christ, and the constant need of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to deliver from sin (see John 14:26; John 15:4–7; 16:7–11, 13; 2 Cor. 12:9, 10). The admonition to “take heed” needs to be repeated frequently, for man is easily convinced that he is well able to take care of himself. Spiritual pride is a great deception, one in which it is easy for the tempter to lead the self-confident believer to fall into grievous sin (cf. 2 Sam. 11:1–4; Rom. 11:20). The exhortation to be constantly on the alert against the danger of spiritual pride is particularly appropriate to those who live in this period of the world’s history, when men are confronted daily with multiplied allurements to indulge in gratification of the carnal appetites (see Luke 21:34–36). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (743–744). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  On the news we read frequently about people, particularly men, who are having an affair, who have left their wife for somebody else, or who are in a new relationship.  It seems as if we have stopped being shocked that it even happens.  It has become a “normal” part of life.  In fact, it has become so common that we hardly even blink when we hear about it.

One of the dangers of such a careless attitude is that we forget it could happen to any of us.  In fact, the moment we begin to think “it will never happen to me,” we begin to lower our guard and are in danger of falling into the same problems, situations, and sins that we criticize in others.

We don’t have to become paranoid, distancing ourselves from everyone lest we sin.  The monastic movement grew because men, and later women, desired a purity that they felt could only be achieved if they separated themselves completely from the world and all its temptations.  They left family and friends and went to live far away from anyone.

I don’t think we need to go to such extreme measures in order to maintain our purity and stay away from temptation and sin.  But we do have to take steps to prevent our fall.  One way to help us ensure we don’t fall is to have others around us to encourage us and to hold us accountable.  For a married person, the first accountability partner should be their spouse.  For a single person, trusted friends, preferably of the same gender.  Don’t become overconfident in yourself and trust that you will never fall.  Instead, consider that it is indeed a possibility and take the steps necessary to keep that from happening.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help us to realize that we are all fallible and could fall, and help us to draw closer to you for strength and to others for encouragement.

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Family Hatred Rather than Love

Scripture: You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. (Luke 21:16 NET)

 

Observation: We shall find that we must let loose of all hands except the hand of Jesus Christ. Friends will prove treacherous, and will betray us. Relatives, deceived by the enemy, will think they do God service in opposing us and putting forth the utmost efforts to bring us into hard places, hoping we will deny our faith. But we may trust our hand in the hand of Christ amid darkness and peril.

The followers of Christ must expect to encounter sneers. They will be reviled; their words and their faith will be misrepresented. Coldness and contempt may be harder to endure than martyrdom. . . .

Parents will turn harshly against their children who accept unpopular truth. Those who conscientiously serve God will be accused of rebellion. Property that was willed to children or other relatives who believe the present truth will be given into other hands. Guardians will rob orphans and widows of their just dues. Those who depart from evil will make themselves a prey through laws enacted to compel the conscience. Men will take to themselves property to which they have no right. The words of the apostle will be verified in the near future: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” [Ellen G. White, Maranatha, p.197]

 

Application: What would drive members of the same family to turn against each other?  I guess the question should be, why are we surprised that they do?  The fact is that we are human beings and all of us battle with the same challenges and temptations.  Selfishness and egocentricity inside us all want us to be number one, to be served, to be right.

But, how can this happen among Christians?  While we are born again in Christ, we are not perfected yet.  As we read about Jesus’ disciples, there existed among them that desire for superiority.  Paul and other leaders of the early Christian church also faced that challenge.  And the history of the Christian church is plastered with the struggle of countless numbers of people, some very humble and willing to serve, others asserting their power, and others forcing even their fellow spiritual family to submit.

What about us, though?  As hard s it is to live the way God wants us to live, we have some of those days or times when we draw closer to Him and begin making changes in our lives.  But the devil is not happy with those changes and he brings criticism, attacks, anger, animosity, and more often than not they come from those closest to us.

I remember when I first made a commitment to Jesus and to His church.  Because that meant leaving the church where I grew up, family and friends became angry and found every opportunity for criticism and to point out where I had fallen, or where my life didn’t completely match their view or even what I had told them my beliefs were now.  While the Bile states that we have “a cloud of witnesses,” I felt like I had a cloud of spies.

As the years have gone by, I have lost the friendship of friends and the love of family, ignoring their hurtful actions and words while at the same time accusing me of being guilty of the same or worse.  And yet, Jesus, and Ellen White, point out that the worse is yet to come.  Our only consolation and hope is in knowing that even if every hand turns against us, the hand of Jesus still has us in His grasp.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, as hard as it is now to live without the family and friends that we love, it will be so much harder when they betray us and even persecute us.  I plead, Father God, for strength and courage as we face these challenges, but I also pray for them that whether they can see You through us or not, they may find You some day, and that in finding You, we may find each other again.

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Your Children’s Faith

Scripture: I rejoiced greatly because I have found some of your children living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded us. (2 John 1:4)

 

Observation:  Of thy children. Literally, “out of thy children.” This may reflect the possibility that all church members had not proved faithful. It may also be that John had not met or heard reports of all the “children,” and that others were equally faithful.

Walking. Gr. peripateō (see on Eph. 2:2). The word is frequently used in Scripture to describe the daily conduct (cf. Phil. 3:17).

In truth. That is, consistently living under the control of truth, faithfully performing every duty on earth as part of the walk toward the eternal home (see on 1 John 1:7). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (687). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  At first glance, this text almost seems to indicate that not all of this church lady’s children were faithful, but Paul did rejoice over those that were.  The original language, however, tells us that maybe what Paul meant to say was that the children he knew about were faithful.  As parents, we want to know that all our kids are living in such a way that they are faithful not just in the eyes of other people but in the eyes of God.  How can we ensure our kids will grow up to love and follow God?

1. Pray for them daily.  When we think about the book of Job we probably remember the disasters that came on him – lost everything, his children were killed, he got sick.  But one great lesson from his life was his constant prayers for his children.  The Bible states, “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did regularly.” Job 1:5 (NKJV)  Rise early in the morning and pray for your children.  Pray for them throughout the day, and let the last words on your lips at night be prayers for them.

2. Worship with them daily and weekly.  One cannot ever underestimate the value of daily family worship, morning and evening, and of attending church together as a family.  Even as the kids grow up into adults, attending church together continues to bring the family closer to each other as the same time as they come closer to God.

3. Serve together.  Research and experience show that acts of service deepens the spiritual experience of people.  For children and young people, it is more valuable when the family devotes time in service together than when the parents send them or pay for them to go to do it.

May it be said about our children that they are living according to the truth just as the Father commanded us.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, Bless our children this day, and may they be faithful to You today and each day of their lives.

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Imitate What Is Good

Scripture: Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. (3 John 1:11 NKJV)

 

Observation:  Follow not. Rather, “imitate not.” John pauses in his discussion of the conflict within the church, and states general truths which, if observed, will enable Gaius always to make right decisions.

That which is evil. Literally, “the bad.”

That which is good. Literally, “the good”. In this stark language the apostle is probably analyzing the situation that confronted Gaius and his friends—the course pursued by Diotrephes is “bad,” and is not to be imitated; the course commended by John in vs. 5–8 is “good,” and should be put into practice. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (697). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Moses had taught the Israelites, “ Never follow a crowd in doing wrong. When you testify in court, don’t side with the majority to pervert justice.” (Exodus 23:2, GW).  As parents it is important that we teach our children to stand for their own opinion and not be led by what the majority does.  Peer pressure can be daunting for some children, particularly if they have been bullied at home by their siblings and even by their parents.  While we may think that having children who are compliant and who always accommodate and obey what we ask them to do, it is not a disadvantage if our children disagree with us and test the limits of their parents’ patience, at least some time.  James Dobson speaks of the strong-willed child as one who challenges his/her parents often.  But it is also that strong will which will not let them be led by the majority or by other children when encouraged to do something that is contrary to what they believe or what they want.

 

How do we teach our children to imitate what is good instead of what is bad?  As with most everything we want our children to learn, it all begins with the example his/her parents give them.  When the husband is rude, unkind, or abusive toward his wife, he is teaching his sons that that is the way men should treat women.  On the other hand, when a husband treats his wife with respect, kindness, and love, he is teaching his sons to do the same with his mother, his sisters, and one day with his girlfriend and his wife.  When a man cheats on his taxes, steals things from work, or regularly breaks the law, he is teaching his boys to do the same.  When a father respects other people’s property, respects the law of the land, and maintains an ethically correct conduct he is showing his children the proper way to live.

 

By the way a woman cares for her husband she also shows her daughters the proper care of their father and of the man who will one day be their husband.  She does not have to deny her individuality nor consider herself less important or lower than her husband when God created her in His image as much as He created her husband in His image.  By the way she acts she teaches her daughters to value and respect themselves which is important to them as they relate to men in their life.  But when a woman and wife imitates women on TV or the movies, lives in such a way that others disrespect her, allows a man to abuse her, or doesn’t care for her home or her family she is teaching her daughters to do the same thing.

 

Don’t imitate others who don’t live correctly; imitate others who provide good examples of what a man and husband, a woman and wife should be to their children.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, our children watch our every move, listen to our every word, observe what we do.  Help us to imitate those who live upright lives because by doing so we are giving our children a good example to imitate for themselves.

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Close Your Eyes

Scripture: The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” Luke 11:34-36 (NKJV)

 

Observation: Jesus made an analogy between receptivity to His ministry and the ability to see. Receptivity is like having healthy eyes; one can see well (light enters the body). The warning to ensure that the light in you is not darkness is paradoxical, not illogical. Jesus intended examination of the heart’s spiritual receptivity. [Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (1537). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.]

 

Application:       It is commonly known that men tend to be more visual.  That’s one of the reasons why pornography is mostly used by men – although recent research shows that the number of women using pornography is increasing.  One of the problems with pornography, however, is that deepens the emptiness in the user which drives him back to look for more, which is what develops his dependence or addiction to it.  Another problem is that the more women with little or no clothing he watches, and they are performing all kinds of sex acts with men, he will begin to long for his wife to do the same, and when she doesn’t he becomes frustrated and goes back to watch more pornography.  Again, this promotes the continuation of a vicious cycle of frustration, emptiness, loneliness, desire, and repeating the event.  The third problem, among many, is that as beautiful as his wife may be, she will never be able to compare with the multitude of women he’s watching, which means he will grow increasingly dissatisfied with her.

Women might be disgusted with men’s use of pornography, and yet, many are reading romantic novels, many of them very descriptive of sexual situations, or constantly watching movies and TV programs with fictitious plots, romantic encounters, couples falling in love within minutes of meeting and also having sex shortly thereafter..  The constant reading of such novels like the 2012 best seller trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” will have a similar effect on women by creating a world of fantasy that no man can possibly fulfill.

How can one be free of these habits or addictions?  Our texts for today tell us that Jesus had just cast out of a man a demon that kept him unable to speak.  I find this story very encouraging because if the man couldn’t speak, he obviously could utter words of help to Jesus.  But obviously as well, Jesus “heard” the longing of this man’s heart and acted on it.  For those of us who seem unable to break away from sin, and it seems as if our prayers go nowhere, this story should lift our spirits with the knowledge that God hears our innermost longing for Him, and that He helps us even when we feel helpless.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, please hear our plea for delivery from the habits and addictions against which we battle, and deliver us from the world of fantasy and the resulting sins into which we fall.

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 Scripture: Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of  good  reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)

 

Observation:  Give ourselves continually. Or, “persevere.” The same word is used several times in describing earnest conduct on the part of the early Christians (cf. ch. 1:14; 2:42, 46).

To prayer. These godly men, with the memory of Christ’s prayer life still fresh in their minds, placed the need for prayer first on their list. But it should be remembered that prayer includes the public worship of the church, as well as private devotion.

Ministry. Gr. diakonia, the same word as used in v. 1. The seven were to minister material blessings while the Twelve were to be left free to minister the spiritual benefits derived from the Word of God. This they would do through preaching and various forms of teaching. This clearly explains what is meant by “leave the word of God” (v. 2). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (190). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

 

Application:  In the early church, it became evident that the apostles could not to do everything that was expected of them. They were overwhelmed by the many demands for their service. Recognizing they were being stretched beyond the limit, they delegated some of their responsibilities to Godly men able to handle those demands. They chose Stephen and others to perform day-to-day service, so they could have time they needed in their lives to devote “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

 

Perhaps we are just as guilty as the disciples were. And, just as changes needed to occur for them, the same may be true for us today.   How often do you allow all the busyness of the day to push aside your time for personal devotions?   How often do you have worship together as a family?  Are there better ways of managing our schedule so that every member of the family has time with Jesus?  Forsaking time with God, even when you spend that time with the family, can leave you empty and ineffective. Are we so busy running here and there that there is no time left in the day?

 

The only way to nurture relationships is in time spent together. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. Our spiritual life grows as we spend time in the study of His word and in talking to Him.  And, another advantage is that as we grow closer to God, our hearts are also drawn closer to our family members.

 

Take care of your spiritual health so you will be strong when difficult times come. And, don’t forget that you, as a parent, are the model to your children when it comes to setting priorities and time management. If you are not spending time with Jesus in your own life, your little ones will not either.  As a family take an inventory to see if perhaps there are things that you need to reorder?

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, I want to develop a closer relationship with You. Show me areas of my life where change is needed in order to make this time with You a priority.

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