Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - December 11, 2018

Today's Reading:

Philippians 1:1-11

Ezekiel 18

Isaiah 47

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Today we begin reading in the book of Philippians and we will continue our short series on eradicating bitterness. As it says in Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the Day of Yahshua Christ."

One vital part of that "good work" which Yahweh is doing in each of us is removing every root of bitterness.
Hebrews 12:14-15  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see Yahweh 

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."

Yahshua gave us seven keys to conquering bitterness, which are contained in seven of His Commands. Exercising these keys (by His Grace) is wearing the Helmet and Breastplate effectively against becoming bitter.

So what are the seven keys to conquering bitterness? Yesterday, I only discussed the first key. Today, we'll continue starting with the second key, which is "Be a Servant of all". Again, these keys (when appearing in the list) may seem strange and unrelated to overcoming bitterness, but bear with me as I will explain how living by these Commands of Messiah is effective against the soul-poison of bitterness:

Key #2: Be a Servant of All

The Command of Christ regarding being servants is found in Matthew 23:11-12. How does this apply to bitterness? Consider the following example:
A husband was bitter at his wife for failing to carry out his instruction. When he heard that husbands should not be bitter towards their wives (1 Peter 3:7). He became convicted and forgave her. But, she didn’t change. She continued to offend him in this area. Soon he was bitter at her again – his forgiveness was not working!
The reason it wasn’t working is that he continued to have expectations of his wife. As long as he held on to his expectations of her, he would be bitter when she failed him. 

Expectations destroy relationships. They are like bars of a prison that we put around those whom we expect to serve us. Expectations are also bars of a prison of bitterness that put around ourselves when others fail to fulfill our expectations. We are not able to fully love someone as long as we have unfulfilled expectations of them. Genuine love focusing on giving to the needs of others. Expectations focus on getting what we think we need for ourselves.
True service is “hoping for nothing again” Luke 6:35

Expectations must be given to God, as we told in Psalm 62:5 “My soul wait thou ONLY UPON YAHWEH; for my expectation is of HIM.” 
Key #3: Deny Yourself

Yahshua requires all those who want to follow Him to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him (Mark 8:34). Denying ourselves is renouncing the wrong desires of our souls, such as indulgence in bitterness.

When Yahshua said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My Sake shall find it,” (Matthew 16:26), He used the Greek word pseuche for life. This word has the same meaning as the word “SOUL”. It is in our soul that the battle takes place between our flesh and our spirit. If we lose the battle in our souls, we will experience anger, guilt, lust, bitterness, greed, fear, and envy.

The word “deny” (in Matthew 16:25) is translated from the Greek word aparneomai. It involves a voluntary putting away, to remove from oneself, to refuse, disown, decline, or withdraw from fellowship.

When we relate this to our souls – the meaning of the word life – we find that this means we are to deny our souls the “right” to become bitter by not allowing our minds, wills or emotions to run in an embittering vein. 
Key #4: Love Your Neighbors

The next key to overcoming bitterness is found in Christ's Command to love our neighbors. This injunction involves loving people, even when they wrong you.
Love for Yahweh and others is the essence of all the Law, because “love worketh no ill to his neighbor” Romans 13:8-10. 

With this command there is absolutely no grounds for bitterness, because Yahshua laid down His Life for us when we were His enemies. Loving all others is how we conquer the source of bitterness.

But learning to love others, especially those who do wrong to us, is much harder to put in practice than it is to write about on paper! Peter gave us a spiritual "ladder" for Christian character development. In that ladder, love is the final rung - which is only fully accomplished when the earlier rungs are first addressed:

One of the most powerful steps in loving and gaining a forgiving spirit toward our offenders is going the extra mile for them.  This means that we are to voluntarily invest something of our time, talents, or resources into the life of our offender, for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (Matthew 6:21).

In Christ’s day, the Roman soldiers could command a male twelve years old or older to carry his military pack for one mile in any direction. Many Jews resented this. To them, it was just one more way the dictatorial Roman empire dominated them. But, Christ taught that rather than just going the required one mile, His followers were to go two (Matthew 5:38-40). This command goes dipolar opposite to our natural response to injustice! But the Bible warns that our natural responses are usually wrong (Proverbs 14:12).

But, in the principle of going the extra mile, we reclaim our joy in Yahweh, and truly overcome the last vestiges of bitterness! It is also not until we go the “second mile” so-to-speak, that we have opportunities to witness to our offenders. Thus, we should pray and seek the Father’s insights as to how we can invest some voluntary “treasure” in the lives of our offenders.  And as we do so, we find a window of Heaven opens flooding us with divine grace to triumph amid the suffering.

Continued tomorrow...

Daily Bible Reading - December 10, 2018

Today's Reading:

Ephesians 6

Ezekiel 17

Isaiah 46

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Ephesians 6 is a powerful chapter on Spiritual Warfare. We need the armor of Yahweh - daily! Never can we safely be without it! For today, I'd like to focus on the Helmet of Salvation and the Breastplate of Righteousness. The Helmet and Breastplate are worn when we guard our thoughts and emotions, by God's Grace.

But sometimes, we let Yahweh's protection slip, not even recognizing that we are under attack. One of the most deadly attacks against the mind and heart of the Christian is the attack of bitterness. Bitterness is a personal poison that corrodes our walk with Yah and weakens our spiritual influence. Yet, the the embittered person is the least likely to recognize he/she has fallen under bitterness.

So, today, I'd like to address how we can wear the Helmet of Salvation and the Breastplate of Righteousness - applying these part of God's Armor specifically against bitterness... 

There are actually seven keys, given in Messiah's Commands, for conquering bitterness. Obedience (grace-empowered) is wearing the Helmet (guarding our thinking against bitterness) and the Breastplate (guarding our hearts - emotions against bitterness), in practical terms.
Hebrews 12:14-15  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see Yahweh: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
In Ephesians 4, which we read just a couple of days back, we read a very misunderstood (poorly translated) passage on anger (which is related to bitterness). It seemed to give Christians license to be angry - in fact, by the way this verse is translated, it appears that getting angry at someone isn't sinful.
Ephesians 4:26-31 - “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrathNeither give place to the devil… Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the Day of RedemptionLet all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” 
But Ephesians 4 isn't countenancing rage. Actually, it is better translated (from the Greek) as it appears below:

Ephesians 4:26 - New Living Translation (NLT)
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”

As I mentioned before, Yahshua gave us seven keys to conquering bitterness, which are contained in seven of His Commands. Exercising these keys (by His Grace) is wearing the Helmet and Breastplate effectively against becoming bitter.

So what are the seven keys to conquering bitterness? Today, I will only address the first key. Tomorrow, I will continue to discuss these keys. In other words, today is the first in a small chain of studies on overcoming bitterness. At first when I share them with you, they may seem strange and unrelated, but bear with me as I will explain how living by these Commands of Messiah is effective against the soul-poison of bitterness:

Key #1: Increase your faith

The Command of Christ regarding increasing faith is found in Matthew 19:26. If we have faith, nothing will be impossible for us to do (Matthew 17:20). Faith comes by hearing the Word of Yah (Romans 10:17). We have access by faith into the power of God’s Grace (Romans 5:1-2) When we allow ourselves to become bitter, we are resisting the grace of Yah. Faith in God’s Word is the victory that motives us to humble ourselves, forgive our offenders and receive more of Yahweh’s Grace (James 4:6).

2 Corinthians  5:7  "For we walk by faith, not by sight."

Faith begins with the awareness that Yahweh is in charge of every detail in our lives. Therefore, He is able to work out benefits, even for the “bad” things that happen to us.

Romans 8:28  "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

When something that looks bad happens to us, we must not give in to our natural tendency to get angry or bitter, but rather ask ourselves, “What blessing does God want to give me by allowing this to happen?”

When you belong to Yahweh, suffering is to be expected. We first partake of Yahshua’s Sufferings before we may have the joy of full fellowship with Him or partake in His glory.

Suffering isn’t an unusual experience, in the life of a Christian. The Bible tells us that all who live godly will suffer (2 Timothy 3:12). The Scriptures also assure us that “all things work together for good” in the lives of those who love God (Romans 8:28).  This means that God allows suffering into our lives only when it is for a good purpose.

• Suffering perfects our characters—1 Peter 5:10
• Suffering delivers us from materialism, causing us to focus our attention on that which has eternal value—Philippians 3:8
• Suffering in the flesh destroys our attraction for sin. Thus, suffering is the pain which comes in order for true healing to take place—1 Peter 4:1 
Suffering is the method God uses to “choose” us as His own, as the Bible states in the following verses: 
“...Many be called, but few chosen,” (Matthew 20:16). 
“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction,” (Isaiah 48:10).
 “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him…” (2 Timothy 2:12).

Bitterness is related to a failure to suffer with grace. If we fail Yahweh’s tests of suffering and do not respond to them in a submitted and godly manner, we will become embittered by these experiences rather than tasting triumph.

When fiery trials come our way, like Job of old, we have an opportunity to pass through the experience of suffering in a way that pleases and glorifies God. This is what it means to suffer with grace.

However if, instead of looking with humble submission to God, we focus our attention on the human instrument who “caused” our suffering, we will become angry and embittered towards the “offender.”  When we permit the “gall” of bitterness to develop, our soul becomes poisoned (Acts 8:23). Thus, we miss out on the “good” that our Heavenly Father was attempting to accomplish through the trial.

If bitterness is allowed to persist, it is a spiritual cancer that ultimately erodes our relationship with Yahweh.

• 1 John 4:20-21  “If a man say, I love Yahweh, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love Yahweh whom he hath not seen?  And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth Yahweh love his brother also.”
• Ephesians 4:30-32  “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Yahweh  for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”

Increasing our faith helps us to pass through times of suffering with Grace. And suffering with Grace rather than becoming embittered involves responding to trials by using the acronym G.R.E.A.T. (many thanks to IBLP for this acronym and the insights):

· The Bible tells us plainly that whether we’re in a happy or difficult situation, we are to still thank God for the GOOD He is accomplishing in this trial.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 — “In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Yahshua concerning you.”

· Thanking God for the trial doesn’t mean we are thanking God for evil. It means that we have full faith in God’s promise to never allow anything to come our way unless He is using it for good. We are enabled to thank God for the benefits He is using this trial to produce. 

What are some of the benefits of suffering? There are many benefits which God uses suffering to accomplish in us.  In this study, we will specifically identify some of these benefits, as a means of increasing our faith in Yahweh, even when we are in difficulties:

1. Suffering is God’s Way of GETTING OUR ATTENTION—Sometimes we get so caught up in the “cares of this world,” that the Voice of God seems to get drowned out. As it says in Jeremiah 35:14. Yahweh may bring suffering upon us just to get us to look up. 

2. Suffering is an assurance that Yahweh loves us and has ADOPTED US AS SONSHebrews 12:6-7

3. Suffering is God’s call for PRAYERFUL SELF-EXAMINATION—Sometimes we bring suffering upon ourselves through sinful words or practices. This is why one of our first responses to a trial should be prayerful self–examination. We need to be certain that we have not brought the troubles upon ourselves. God requires that we search out, confess, and forsake every sin - Proverbs 28:13.

4. Suffering is God’s way of CONQUERING OUR PRIDE— The suffering of contention (fighting) reveals pride (Proverbs 13:10). The suffering of destruction is a consequence of pride (Proverbs 16:18). 

5. Suffering is a reminder of OUR WEAKNESSES and NEED FOR DEPENDENCE ON GOD—Perhaps we
are suffering under an “infirmity” which we cannot change. Only as we learn how to praise God in our unchangeable “infirmities” are we able to fully experience the power of Christ resting upon us (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

6. Suffering motivates us to CRY OUT TO GOD— God responds to the cry of His children when they suffer (Psalm 34:17). Suffering motivates us to cry out to God in humble yet heartfelt appeal. We are to cry to Him daily during suffering (Psalm 86:3). We are to cry out with our voice, out of a pure heart (Psalm 3:4 & 66:18).

Psalm 3:4 “I cried unto Yahweh with my voice, and He heard me out of his holy Hill.”

7. Suffering is an opportunity to use SPIRITUAL WARFARE—When we are suffering, we find Spiritual Warfare especially necessary. We may recognize a spiritual attack if our suffering takes the form of confusion, suspicion, ungodly emotions and division. We are told how to suit up for battle in Ephesians 6:11-18.

8. Suffering is God’s method of PURIFYING OUR FAITH—God purifies and strengthens our faith, testing it in the fires of affliction (1 Peter 1:6-7). “Knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience,” (James 1:3).

9. Suffering is one way in which God increases our HATRED FOR EVIL—When our suffering is caused by the devastating consequences of sin, we are able to see how sin has robbed us of something God planned for us to enjoy. We also can see how our sins have damaged the lives of those we love. When we can clearly see that we are suffering because of our sinful choices, our hatred of evil increases. As we count the cost of this sin, we truly commit to God and turn away from it permanently (Galatians 6:7-8).

10. Suffering is a reminder to PRAY FOR OUR AUTHORITIES—The Bible tells us to pray for those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-2). When our authorities overstep their bounds and persecute us for righteousness, it is vital that we pray for them. Thus, God will intervene causing the authorities’ hearts to turn 

Proverbs 21:1 - The king's heart is in the Hand of Yahweh, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will."

11. Suffering is our signal to RE-EVALUATE OUR PRIORITIES—When we fail to spend proper time with God, in prayer and meditating upon His Word, we become vulnerable to transgression, fear, doubt or despair.  Such trials are unnecessary (Psalm 127:2). Sometimes by not placing our time with the Lord as a high priority, we get too busy to worship Him on the Sabbath. This results in us suffering spiritual weakness and a loss of connection with God. But, if we have more projects than we can manage to do in six days, we have assumed more work than God intended (Exodus 20:9). 


Returning to our G.R.E.A.T. acronym, the "R" stands for Rejoice

· While giving thanks to God at the first onset of a trial is an act of will, true rejoicing is a spiritual response.

· In order to truly rejoice for the good which God is accomplishing in a trial, we must prayerfully identify its benefits. When we can identify the benefits God is bestowing in our suffering, we can really rejoice, rendering heartfelt praise to our Heavenly King.

· One of the biggest blessings hidden within each instance of suffering is God’s work to polish and perfect our characters (Jeremiah 29:11).

· Romans 8:18— “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

E = Engraft Scripture

· When our Saviour faced trials, like the temptations in the wilderness, He responded by quoting appropriate Scripture.

· Claiming Scripture is a powerful way to build faith, enabling us to continue to suffer with grace, fully submitted to God.

· Romans 10:17— “...Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” 

A = Appeal to Yahweh

· When we have accepted the trial, thanked God, rejoiced for the benefits He is accomplishing through it, and have claimed Scripture to empower our godly response; we are ready to appeal to God, with a right attitude.

· It is perfectly appropriate to cry out to God to remove a trial. But, we should ask Him to remove it WHEN He has finished accomplishing the good He intended. 

· Psalm 107:13— “Then they cried unto Yahweh in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.”

T = Triumph in Bringing Glory to Yahweh in the Suffering - Rather than Becoming Bitter

· God wants us to respond to trials in a way that even benefits the lives of those who have oppressed us. This response is opposite to our natural hearts.

· Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies (with our heart and spirit), bless them that curse you (with our mouth) , do good to them that hate you (with our actions), and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” 

· Not only does it glorify God when we are kind and loving toward our “offenders,” but also God has promised to give a special reward to those who return good for evil.

· 1 Peter 3:8-9  “Finally…  be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.”

And all of that has been expounding upon only the first key to preventing (or healing from) bitterness, which is "increase your faith". How life-changing will it be to put just this first key into practice in our lives? And that's not all - there's more...  Tomorrow, we will continue our prayerful look into the powerful keys to overcoming bitterness...  Let's knock it out and prayerfully remove every root! 

In so doing, we'll be discovering the practical application of Yahweh's mighty Armor, found in Ephesians 6. It isn't about decoration! Wearing the Armor is about victorious, Christian living!