Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - November 15, 2017

Today's Reading:

James 4

Jeremiah 27-28

Psalm 132

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Okay, I confess...  I really connect with the Book of James! So, once again, I will focus my comments on the Bible reading from James for today. In James 4:7, we find the two "keys" to spiritual warfare and victorious Christian living. In fact, my husband's and my book, Keys to Living Like You've Been Saved, is rooted in James 4:7, which says:

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
The following is an excerpt from our "Keys" book, on the two keys to victory, which are: 

1) Submit to God
2) Resist the devil 

In the Scriptures, we are given two keys for consistent victory. They are found in James 4:7. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  This is a simple promise, and GOD’s promises NEVER fail.  Therefore we KNOW, beyond all shadow of doubt, that, if we will first submit to God, and then resist Satan in every temptation, the enemy MUST flee. Practically speaking, how do we go about submitting to God?

             The first step to full submission is the anointing process.  In laying those faults down before the Heavenly Father, claiming the power of the Cross and the promises against them, we are stating, “I submit these areas of my life to You, Heavenly Father. Please cleanse me of them and remove them from me completely, that I may be wholly Thine.”

The next step takes place daily, as we submit to GOD.  Paul said, “...I die daily” (1  Corinthians 15:31.)  This means that we have to make the choice, every morning, to lay down our “old man of sin,” choosing rather to be alive in Christ.  We must willingly state, as it says in Galatians 2:20,  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  We are to seek, morning-by-morning, to be so fully surrendered to God that we no longer seek to fulfill our own will on anything. It is His will that matters.

It is easy to say that we are submitted to GOD, but saying so and being so are often not the same thing.  When we are fully submitted to God, we recognize, in every area of our lives, that we are only His stewards.  All that we are and have is really His. As it states in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2,  “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

What does it mean to be a steward? And how does this help to have a victorious Christian life? Recognizing our stewardship role first makes an impact in our attitudes about irritations and “set-backs.” For example, when you          understand that “your” time is really God’s time, as every breath you draw is a gift from Him, you will be rightly inclined to view unexpected demands on “your” time as divine appointments. The submitted Christian unforeseeably stranded in an airport, is not going to get frustrated over the potential of being “late” to his scheduled appointment. Rather, he sees  himself as serving the living God. If God, Who is not a God of waste, promising that “all things work together for good to them who love God…” (Romans 8:28), has chosen to strand His child in an airport, there is a godly reason for it. Thus, the submitted Christian looks around prayerfully asking who in the airport is to be the object of ministry.

Another area where submission to God reaps a dramatic change is the use of “our” possessions (including money). When we view “our” things as our own, we easily abuse them. A television, for example, if viewed as “our”     possession, is often used for all kinds of unrighteous purposes.  But, when a family acknowledges God’s rightful Ownership over the T.V., it cannot be used wrongly again.  Indeed, if we are a guest in another person’s home and we wish to watch something on this friend’s television, simple courtesy to the owner demands that we ask his permission to use his T.V.  In the same way, if we wish to use GOD’s television, we naturally won’t do so without asking His permission first.  

When our family submitted “our” belongings to God, acknowledging His Ownership over our television, we hung a sign on the T.V. It read: “Note: This television belongs to God. If you would like to use His T.V., please kneel down and ask His permission first.” This simple statement was followed by the guiding verse found in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 

An honest Christian cannot ask God’s permission to use His T.V. to watch shows about violence, immorality, or drug abuse. In addition, we can not seek Heaven’s approval to view programs with profanity.  As one can well imagine, through this kind of submission to God, our television use was  revolutionized.

As it states in James 4:7, submission to God is the first step in victorious Christian living. As we have already suggested, submitting ourselves to the Heavenly Father’s will is something we need to do every morning. In our early morning devotional time, as we eat of the spiritual manna of the Word and breathe the Heavenly air of prayer and communion with God, let us commit to active submission to God’s will and purpose for our lives.

Submission is vital to victory; but, it is only one of the two keys given in James 4:7. The second half is resisting the enemy. Effectively resisting a demonic attack doesn’t start at the moment of temptation any more than ensuring a warrior’s victory in a fight begins with the physical assault. A warrior doesn’t instantly become such at the first onset of an opponent. Rather, he is ready for the battle because he has become an effective fighter through hour-upon-hour of preparatory training. In the same way, resisting the enemy as an effective spiritual warrior, begins before the conflict starts with the tempter.

To further emphasize the importance of preparing for spiritual battles ahead of time, consider the following     illustration.  A young woman with no weaponry experience or combat training suddenly developed a desire to possess the world’s most superlative sword. The desire grew to the point that she booked herself passage to the far off location of the most renowned weapon-smith the planet had to offer.  For the purposes of our illustration, money was no object, so the young lady met with the master sword-maker and successfully commissioned him to fashion for her a sword so    marvelous it was to be without equal.

The master skillfully set about the task which, for the purposes of our illustration, he was capable of accomplishing. In a few months, the amazing sword was complete. Sending for the young woman, the master presented her with the nothing-short-of-the-world’s-best-sword.  She thanked the master weapon-smith and paid him handsomely for his craftsmanship. Then, fabulous sword in tow, she returned to her home and mounted the remarkable piece above her mantle where she could frequently admire it.

Some time passed, and then one night a dark man, dressed as a Samurai, snuck into the young woman’s home. Suddenly looking up from her evening reading, the woman gasped in horror to realize she was under attack. Leaping to her mantle she jerked her superior weapon from the wall and turned to face her masked assailant.

We have gone far enough in our story to make the point. In this conflict, between the novice woman with the world’s best sword and the Samurai with the inferior weapon, who would win? Naturally, you say, “the Samurai would win.” We all understand that the knowledge of how to use the sword is critically missing from the young woman’s defense. The superlative sword would be practically useless in her unskilled hands. We can shake our heads at her futile attempt to defend herself, realizing that she is wasting her time having not learned to use the great weapon she possesses.

And yet, sadly, this is how most Christians face the enemy of souls. We spend little or no time preparing for spiritual conflict. Thus, we are no more successful in withstanding the devil than this foolish woman would be in warding off a Samurai’s attack.  If we would be victorious Christian warriors, we must become skilled in using the superlative Sword of God’s Word.

Hebrews 4:12 describes this mighty Weapon. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing    asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” 

             So how can we become skilled in using the Sword of the Word? There are three ways, two of which are more     general, and the third being quite specific to the enemy’s    attacks. The first way to become an effective spiritual warrior in using the Word of God is to study it on a daily basis. 2 Timothy 2:15 is plainly a command to all would-be followers of Christ: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly  dividing the Word of Truth.”

The second way is by memorizing Scripture in great quantities.  As it says in Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Having the Scriptures in our memory is a powerful safeguard in times of temptation.

As mentioned above, studying the Bible and      memorizing the Scriptures are two vital elements in every   effective spiritual warrior’s daily life. But, these are just       generally a good idea. The third use of the Heavenly Sword is specific to each of our individual areas of weakness.

Humanity may not enjoy deep introspection, but most of us know our own areas of weakness. We know what thoughts and situations most tempt us into sin;  and, knowing what we find tempting in the first place is the key to using the Sword of God’s Word to prepare for temptations in advance. For every demonic stab against Christ, the devil faced a precise parry in the quoted Word. The Saviour’s choice of texts for battle with the devil were the perfect counter to the enemy assault.

We know Satan tempts us in the areas where we are weakest.  Thus, these are the areas we need to match with Scriptures to quote in future spiritual attacks.  We suggest that the Christian-warrior-in-training should find several Scriptures which specifically relate to areas of temptation in his or her life.  Write these texts on 3 x 5 cards and carry them throughout the day.  During the memorization process, keep the cards with you at all times, so that the appropriate Scriptural parry is always ready. In this way, always be prepared in advance, to resist the enemy. As it says in 1 Peter 5:8,  “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Now it is time to address the seven Heavenly weapons and how to employ them in the instant of temptation to effectively resist the enemy. The seven Heavenly weapons are:

· Rebuke Satan in Christ’s Name and Blood (Jude 1:9, Matthew 16:23, Acts 16:18).
· Pray for the Heavenly Father to send His angels to fight on your behalf (Psalm 91:11).
· Quote an appropriate Scripture for the specific temptation (2 Peter 1:4).
· Sing songs of praise to the Saviour (1 Chronicles 16:8-10)
· Read passages from Scripture aloud until the temptation passes (Ephesians 6:10-18).
· Speak (aloud) to God  praising Him for specific blessings  (Psalm 105:2-3).
· Share your testimony of what God has done for you with someone (Revelation 12:11).

Please notice that the first three items are written in a bold-faced font. This is because they are critical and should be employed, in this order, in every temptation situation. The remaining four items are available to be employed, after the first three, and when most suited to the situation.

If a temptation hits us in a public place, we may need to whisper the rebuke (Satan doesn’t read our minds—so we must at least mouth the words rebuking him in Jesus’ Name. We can pray in our minds for heavenly aid.  And if we find ourselves unable to speak the Scripture, we can still point at the 3 x 5 card where it’s written in order to claim it against the enemy. But, in a public place, singing or sharing one’s testimony may not be appropriate. 

Singing and praising God aloud are especially effective against depression and fear. Sharing our testimony with another not only strengthens our faith when assailed with doubt, but it also encourages the friend with whom we share.  As with anything in life, practicing the use of the Heavenly weapons develops skill. Eventually, we simply know exactly which weapons to employ at the precise moment.  But, the good news is that until that happens, the Heavenly Father makes even our baby steps sufficient. Remember, His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9)!

The next key in effectively resisting, according to the formula of James 4:7, is perseverance. We must not quit fighting, or cease using the Heavenly weapons, until the temptation is gone. Becoming too tired to fight is a condition none of us can afford. By the grace of Christ, if we will seek the victory now, we can rest later; but, to tire out during an attack is to fall on enchanted, enemy ground. As Christ said in Luke 18:1, “ ought always to pray, and not to faint.” It is not going to be easy to choose to walk on the path of victorious Christian  living. This is no arm-chair, Sabbath-day-only religion. It will be a fight. Paul admonishes, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). 

But the wonderful news is that this fight will bear victorious fruit! The Heavenly Father fights on the side of the weak Christian. He is totally committed to our gaining the victory. For this reason, if a satanic attack warrants dispatching all the angels of Heaven to our side, the Heavenly Father will do so in order to insure that the victory will be gained.  That is what Jude 1:24 is talking about when it says, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…”  The battle is His! He will not lose.  But, He also will not fight on our behalf until we ask for His help, chose to wield the Heavenly weapons, and resist the enemy.  Once we have made that choice, the power of God is behind us to insure the victory.





Daily Bible Reading - November 14, 2017

Today's Reading:

James 3

Jeremiah 25-26

Psalm 131

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

There is so much in the book of James, that I find myself turning to it again today as my special focus. James 3 is about "taming the tongue"...  Wow! This is such a huge and important concept - in fact, if we stay so connected with Yahweh that we control our tongues 24/7, we are ready for translation! 

Rick Smith wrote an online article on taming the tongue, which I found to be a blessing...  So, I will share it with you, as follows (I have changed the references to Messiah to the Sacred Name):

I came across a statistic that shocked me. I was not sure I believed it. I read that the average person speaks 11,000,000 words a year. Imagine 11,000,000 words a year. This is easier to believe about some people than others. I have a relative for whom 11,000,000 words a year is no problem. He can do that in a month.  Do you know how many words that is in a lifetime? At the age of 65 it is 715,000,000 words. Imagine the magnitude of that many words.

I. Our words matter

Words are incredibly powerful. They can build up, encourage, and motivate. Words can also tear down, hurt, and cause horrible scars. Remember the saying many of us used as kids, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." It isn't true. Words can hurt. Some of us are living with the scars of the hurtful words of others. The Bible reminds us that "Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Prov 18:21 (HCSB)
Words matter to God. He keeps a record of our words. Yahshua said, "I tell you that on the Day of Judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak." Matt 12:36 (HCSB) Yahshua spoke plainly about our use of words. He tells us, "for every careless word" there will be an accounting in the day of judgment. We expect Yahshua to condemn profane and vile uses of the tongue, but idle words? We say some words carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. Why would God care about those? We assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook. Yahshua was fully aware of the devastating nature of our (ungodly) words.

II. How to use our words

The Bible has a lot to say about how we use our words. Here are a few biblical principals about the use of words.

A. Refrain from attack words

Words can be used as a weapon to lash into people. Sometimes our goal is to hurt people by what we say. The first thing some people do in the morning is brush their teeth and sharpen their tongue. Words can cut like a knife and we want to stick the dagger in deep. God does not want us to use our words as a weapon. He wants us to use our words to bless others. Yahshua says in Matthew 5:44, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (HCSB)

B. Refrain from gossip

We need to be careful about the news we share concerning others. Someone said, "There is only one thing as difficult as unscrambling an egg, and that's unspreading a rumor." Gossip is destructive, and it is subtle. Someone begins a conversation: "Did you hear?" Before you know it, you're caught up in gossip. Don't believe everything you hear. Someone said, "A gossip usually makes a mountain out of a molehill by adding some dirt."
Be careful about listening to gossip. Is listening to gossip all that much worse than telling it? There's a saying, "He who gossips to you will gossip about you."
The Bible warns us…
"The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth." Prov 20:19 (HCSB)
"A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates friends." Prov 16:28 (HCSB)
Watch out for gossip.

C. Use clean words

Some words are just not proper to speak. When we were kids our parents would wash our mouths out with soap if we said such words. Having a foul mouth is not something to be proud of. Some words are not supposed to be said.

D. Use truthful words

Yahshua said, "But let your word 'yes' be 'yes,' and your 'no' be 'no.' Anything more than this is from the evil one." Matt 5:37 (HCSB) People need to believe what we say. Lying destroys our credibility. Chances are that we'll eventually be caught if we make a practice of lying.
I heard a story about a woman who was hosting guests for dinner. She decided to serve chicken. She told the butcher she'd like to buy chicken. The butcher opened his freezer case, and saw only one chicken. He put it on the scale and said "two pounds." The lady responded, "Oh, I wanted one bigger than that." The butcher, not wanting to lose a sale, took the chicken off the scale, put it back in the freezer and pulled up the same chicken - his last chicken - and said, "three pounds." The woman answered, "Great, I'll take both of them." The butcher had a problem. Be honest. Let the words that flow from your mouth be truthful.

E. Use edifying words

The Bible says, "No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear." Eph 4:29 (HCSB) The Bible challenges us to use our words to help people, to build others up, not to tear them down... Our words can have an incredibly positive effect. How many of us have found great comfort or encouragement because of what someone said to us? Don't underestimate the value of an encouraging word.
Perhaps you are thinking, Okay pastor, you've made your point, I need to make some changes on the way I use my tongue. But how do I do it? Perhaps you've tried to make some changes in your speech but it ended in failure. You want to know what you can do to succeed this time.

III. Transform the tongue

Transforming the tongue begins with a change in the heart. Yahshua said, "But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man." Matt 15:18 (HCSB). The heart influences the tongue. When it is full of anger, selfishness, envy, pride, and all the other ugly "stuff" that can invade our hearts, we are affected in everything we do.
I heard about a joke some children played on their grandfather. They found him asleep on the sofa in the living room. One of the youngsters got the bright idea to spread some Limburger cheese in Grandpa's mustache. After a while grandpa woke up and began to smell that Limburger cheese and said, "Something in this living room stinks." He went into the kitchen, still smelling the Limburger cheese in his mustache, and said, "Something in this room stinks." Finally, he stuck his head out the back door and says, "Ah, the whole world stinks!"
Some of us have Limburger cheese in our hearts. The problem is not out there, it's within us. Something needs to change within us. Our focus needs to be transformed. Instead of looking for the bad in a situation, we need to look for the good. Instead of being preoccupied with self-interest, we need to focus on the interests of others. Changing our hearts is a good place to start.
We need to think before we speak. The Bible teaches, "My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man's anger does not accomplish God's righteousness." James 1:19-20 (HCSB)
Guard against engaging the tongue without engaging the mind. Take a moment before you speak. Here's an acrostic to help evaluate whether you are about to say something you perhaps shouldn't. Ask the following questions:
T - is it true?
H - is it helpful?
I - is it inspiring?
N - is it necessary?
K - is it kind?
If what you are about to say does not pass this simple test, then don't say it. Think before you speak.
Tap into God's help. This help is available to us. Who can tame the human tongue? Yahshua can! Yahshua is in the business of transforming lives. Paul reminded us, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (HCSB)
Yahshua can give us the desire and motivation to change. Most of all, He can give us the ability to make the change. Paul commented, "I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me." Phil 4:13 (HCSB)
Countless lives have been transformed through Christ. Yahshua specializes as a change agent. Let Yahshua do His work in your life.