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Archive for December, 2013

What Type of Person Are You?

Scripture: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”  (2 Peter 3:11 NKJV)

 

Observation: What manner of persons? Or, “what sort of men?” from an older word meaning “from what country?” Here Peter reveals that his great concern is not with events but with men, that is, with the characters of his readers. He has gone into detail about last-day events in order to bring before them the imperative need for holiness, and now devotes the remainder of his epistle to impressing this need upon them.

In all … godliness. Literally, “in holy behaviors and godliness,” both nouns being in the plural in Greek, since Peter is making his thought as comprehensive as possible and wishes his readers to bring every part of their conduct into conformity to the highest Christian standards. For comment on “conversation” (anastrophē) see on ch. 2:7; for “godliness” (eusebeia) see on Tim. 2:2.[ The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (616). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application: Have you ever felt like it is easier at times to be nice to strangers than it is to those you live with?  Why is that?  Why is it that the ones that we should speak the most loving to and act the most loving towards, often get to see the worst of us?  It is easy to “keep our guard up” around strangers. After all, we have a reputation to uphold.

 

Answer this question honestly— What would others think if they could peak inside your home throughout the day?  Would you want them to hear how you talk to your spouse and to your children?  The truth is that unseen angels do see!  Jesus sees and hears too.

 

Perhaps you also need to reflect on the fact that your son will treat his wife the way that you treat your wife. Your little girl will communicate to her husband the way that she witnesses mom doing. And, even if you are single, your child will grow up to reflect the same communication style and conflict resolution that you utilize. The importance of modeling “holy conduct and godliness” cannot be underestimated.

 

So, respond to the issue raised in our scriptural text for today— What manner of person are you?  What manner of person ought you to be?  Is change needed?

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, please guard my tongue, my thoughts, and my actions. Help me to reflect You to everyone I meet, but most of all, help my family to see You in me today.

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Scripture: “… from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15 NKJV)

 

Observation: from a child—literally, “from an infant.” The tender age of the first dawn of reason is that wherein the most lasting impressions of faith may be made.

wise unto salvation—that is, wise unto the attainment of salvation. Contrast “folly” (2 Ti 3:9). Wise also in extending it to others.

through faith—as the instrument of this wisdom. Each knows divine things only as far as his own experience in himself extends. He who has not faith, has not wisdom or salvation.[ Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (2 Ti 3:15). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  One of the most important things that you can do with your child is to read to them. Literacy development is the number one predictor of academic success in children. And, the number one thing that you can do to impact literacy development is to read to your child every day. Yes, this takes time. But, the rewards not only help assure academic success, they just may be eternal.

 

Why not combine reading to your child every day with having daily family worship? Think of the opportunity that you have!  Consider the choice of available reading material. You may read those precious Bible stories of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Noah’s Ark, or David and Goliath. You can take an entire week of family devotions, read the same story each night, then do various things each night to make that story come alive for your little one. As a family you may reenact the story, make the various voices, illustrate the story in a family mural, have a puppet show, write a song etc.

 

Dedicate a specific time each day to family worship. Make sure everyone in the house knows the time and the place they will meet. It should be at the same time every day so that it becomes a daily habit for everyone in the family. Don’t allow busyness to push it aside. You will never regret time spent worshipping together as a family.

 

Make sure those Biblical lessons and stories are age appropriate for your child. Family worship should be something that they look forward to all day long. Involve them in selecting the weekly story of emphasis and in planning the activities. Those simple stories that a young child listens to you read to them will become great life lessons they will carry with them into adulthood.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, help me as a parent teach my child to love Your word.

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Praying for Our Children

Scripture: Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12 NKJV)

 

Observation: count you worthy—The prominent position of the “You” in the Greek makes it the emphatic word of the sentence. May you be found among the saints whom God shall count worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1)! There is no dignity in us independent of God’s calling of us (2 Ti 1:9). The calling here is not merely the first actual call, but the whole of God’s electing act, originating in His “purpose of grace given us in Christ before the world began,” and having its consummation in glory. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (2 Th 1:11). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  Praying for our girls began before they were born. Before they entered into the world, we prayed for that baby developing inside the womb. At each stage of life our prayers focused on different things. The prayers targeted the specific challenges that each stage of life brought to them: choices of friends, academic challenges, peer pressure, media choices, etc. We quickly realized that as they grew, so did the importance in the choices they made. Academic challenges in elementary school gave way to college and career choices. Choosing childhood friends gave way to choosing a marriage partner. As the significance of choices increased, so did our prayers. Even now, as the parents of two young adult daughters, the prayers continue.

 

One of the most important gifts you will ever give your child is your prayers on their behalf. Your child will depend on those prayers. He/she will go forward into difficult circumstances with the knowledge that mom and/or dad has them covered in prayer. As they face daily challenges pray with them. Tell them that you will be in prayer as they take a math test or deal with a classroom bully. Prayer should be a part of everyday home life. Children should be taught to take all matters- great and small to Jesus. Model prayer by praying out loud and seeing you on your knees should be a normal sight.

 

And, no matter how old your child gets, never give up praying for them!   Prayers make a difference and prayers change things! This is one of the greatest life lessons that you as a parent can teach your child.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the privilege of being a parent. I pray that my children will be worthy of Your calling. I pray that they will live their lives in uncut a way to glorify Your name. And, I thank You that Your grace is sufficient for them.

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Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

Scripture:  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

 

Observation:  Author. Gr. archēgos, “leader,” “originator,” “founder,” “pioneer” (RSV). Archēgos is rendered “Prince” in Acts 3:15; 5:31 and “captain” in Heb. 2:10, in each instance with reference to Christ, as here. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses them from their previous life of sin and qualifies them to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants their feet on the pathway to heaven.

Finisher. Gr. telēiotēs, “perfecter.” The work of justification is only the beginning of the Christian experience. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but are to “go on unto perfection” (see on ch. 6:1). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins (see on Heb. 12:1) and to “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” (Eph. 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20) as the “perfecter” of faith. This is the work of sanctification. See on Matt. 5:48. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (481). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  One of those famous quotes from New York Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra, or a Yogism, goes like this:  “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  It sounds kind of funny, kind of crazy, but it is actually very profound.  He illustrates the fact that if we don’t set goals for our life we will probably end up someplace, but not where we had hope to be.  I may wish I would have a doctoral degree, but if I don’t set in place that as a goal, and make plans accordingly, chances are I won’t get that doctoral degree.  Maybe I wish I owned a house, but if I don’t make that a goal, and work, save, and plan accordingly I may end up with nothing more than a wish.

It is the same way with marriage.  You may enter into marriage with dreams and romantic ideals, wearing rose-colored glasses, hoping things work out for you and your spouse.  Instead, you could set a number of goals and move together in the direction of reaching them.  Some of the goals you could set for your marriage should include such things as owning a house, retire from work at a certain age, the number of children you would like to have, saving money for the kids’ education, going on mission experiences together.

Of course, the most important goal is to remain married until death comes or Jesus returns.  With this goal in mind, you can recruit His help knowing Jesus will help you reach that goal successfully, and happily.  Our text today encourages us to keep our eyes on the goal, as Jesus did.  That’s how he was able to put up with the constant challenges He faced to the end.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank you for teaching us the importance of setting goals.  Help us to set life-long goals for our marriage and family, and help us to reach them successfully.

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A Daily Drink

Scripture:  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14 (NKJV)

 

Observation:  thirst again … never thirst, &c.—The contrast here is fundamental and all comprehensive. “This water” plainly means “this natural water and all satisfactions of a like earthly and perishable nature.” Coming to us from without, and reaching only the superficial parts of our nature, they are soon spent, and need to be anew supplied as much as if we had never experienced them before, while the deeper wants of our being are not reached by them at all; whereas the “water” that Christ gives—spiritual life—is struck out of the very depths of our being, making the soul not a cistern, for holding water poured into it from without, but a fountain (the word had been better so rendered, to distinguish it from the word rendered “well” in Jn 4:11), springing, gushing, bubbling up and flowing forth within us, ever fresh, ever living. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ is the secret of this life with all its enduring energies and satisfactions, as is expressly said (Jn 7:37–39). “Never thirsting,” then, means simply that such souls have the supplies at home. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Jn 4:13–14). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  We all recognize, and science confirms it, that in order to have the best of health we need to work at maintaining healthy habits.  For instance, the Weimar Institute developed what is known as NEWSTART which is an acronym for Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest, and Trust in Divine Power.  These seven elements help us to have better health, but they don’t simply happen in our life; we must be intentional, we must work at, we must ensure that these seven are part of our life.

In the world of athletics or sports, we recognize that the best of the best have natural abilities but also work hard at getting where they are.  In the realm of work, most people who work hard accomplish many things for their company and for themselves.  In the arts, artists, musicians, and performers have to work hard, and for a long time, to perfect their skills until they are recognized and rewarded for them.

In the spiritual realm the same is true.  We recognize that spiritual growth takes place when we read the Bible, pray, and share or witness to others.  Bible study is one of the vehicles God uses to communicate His will to us, to teach about Him and His plan for our lives.  Prayer is how we communicate with Him and how develop a close relationship with Him.  Witnessing or sharing is the way we exercise our faith, the way we are strengthened and grow.

If we work hard at being good in our studies, at work, in sports or the arts, why do we think that a good marriage happens naturally and without any effort on our part?  If we must study the bible, pray, and help disciple others not just for their benefit but for our own, shouldn’t we also make the same effort in order to have a good, healthy, strong marriage?

Today’s passage reminds us that as much as we must drink water daily, and pray daily, so also we need to work daily at making and keeping our marriage healthy and strong.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help us to make that daily effort to maintain strong, healthy relationships with You, with our spouse, with our family, and with others in our life.

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He is so Close!

Scripture: So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  Acts 17:27-28 (NKJV)

 

Observation: Not far. The whole clause is very emphatic, and literally reads: “And yet He is not far from each one of us.” There is no doubt expressed in Paul’s words; he is rather making a positive statement of fact. The Lord is near to men, even when they do not acknowledge Him. This makes it a comparatively simple matter for men to find God, for He is by their side, awaiting their awakening and aiding their efforts to discover Him. God can and does reveal Himself according to the measure of zeal and earnestness shown by those who seek Him. At this point the Stoics would see parallels between their own teaching and Paul’s thinking, but the Epicureans would be repelled, for the apostle’s words constituted an attack on the basic atheism of their system.

28. In him we live. The whole clause literally reads: “In [or “by”] Him we are living, and are being moved, and are existing.” The words of the apostle express the thought that not merely our initial dependence is on the Creator, but that all our activities—physical, mental, and spiritual—are derived from Him. In the teaching of Paul the personality of the omnipotent, omniscient God is not merged, as is the God of the pantheist, in the impersonal Soul of the world, but stands forth with awful distinctness in the character of Creator and Sustainer of all life. “Through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us … The power working through these agencies is the power of God” (MH 112, 113). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (353). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Sometimes God feels so far away, it is as if He were nowhere near us, just when we need Him most.  If it’s any consolation, even Jesus felt that way once while hanging from the cross at Calvary.  With the weight of the sins of the world on His shoulders, it seemed to Jesus as if He had been abandoned by His own Father with Whom He had shared eternity.  And maybe that scene gives us an indication why we feel so far away from God; sin makes us feel far from Him who is so close to us!

That’s why these words from the Apostle Paul, declared to the Greek philosophers, are so encouraging.  He wasn’t reminding some Christians that God us near to us; He was telling those who didn’t even know or believe in God.  What that tells me is that God is near each of us even when we reject Him, deny Him, or even rebel against Him.  He reminds of His presence with words such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), or “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20 ASV).

On those days when we feel alone, abandoned by God, remind yourself of these words and be encouraged by knowing that God is very close to you and your family, that He will never leave us, that He will be with us every step of the way until the end of this race.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for being with us, very near to us, even when we don’t feel close to You.  And thank You because You never abandon us in spite of ourselves.

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A Gradual Change

Scripture: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.  2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

 

Observation:  Are changed. Literally, “are being changed.” The plan of redemption aims to restore the image of God in man (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2), a transformation that comes about by contemplating Christ (Rom. 12:2; Gal. 4:19). The contemplation of the image of Christ acts upon the moral and spiritual nature as the presence of God did upon the face of Moses. The humblest Christian who constantly looks to Christ as his Redeemer will reflect in his own life something of the glory of Christ. If he faithfully continues to do so, he will go on “from glory to glory” in his personal Christian experience (see 2 Peter 1:5–7).

From glory to glory. This transformation is progressive. It advances from one stage of glory to another. Our spiritual assimilation of Christ comes through His glory and results in a reflection of glory like unto His. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (851). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  We all probably have noticed a couple who’s been married for many years and who look so much alike.  Even scientists have concluded that indeed people begin to resemble the person to whom they are married for a long time.  Whether that is true, or just our impression, I’m not quite sure, but even if people don’t look alike, they surely act alike, talk alike, and think alike.  It’s as if being married to a person for so many years changes us to the point that we adopt many of their mannerisms, words, and ideas.

That’s what happened to Jesus’ disciples, after spending just a little over three years with Him.  People could recognize that peter had changed and even spoke like Jesus.  That’s why it is important for us to also spend time with Jesus, so that we can be changed daily to resemble Him more each day.

Here’s where this idea becomes more important.  Instead of trying to change our spouse so that they can be what we would like them to be, or become the person we feel they should become, we should try to emulate Jesus and be the person He wants us to be.  At the same time, instead of trying to change our spouse, why not let Jesus change them. . . He knows best.  The interesting thing is that when we both allow Jesus to change us, individually, not only do we resemble Him more but we’re also drawn closer to each other; both are the best outcomes we could wish for.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, change me from within that I may resemble your Son, especially to my spouse.

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