15-2-The Bible-Part 2
Depression may follow great ones
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
Samson was physically and emotionally exhausted. After a great personal victory, his attitude quickly turned into self-pity – “Must I now die of thirst?” Emotionally, we are most vulnerable after a great effort or when faced with real physical needs. Severe depression often follows great achievements, so don’t be surprised if you feel drained after a personal victory.
During these times of vulnerability, avoid the temptation to think that God owes you for your efforts. It was HIS strength that gave you victory. Concentrate on keeping your attitudes, actions, and words focused on God instead of yourself.
Where could you use God’s thirst quenching water to revive you?
It is pride to take full credit for:
In (2 Kgs 19:21-34) Sennacherib believed his kingdom had grown because of his own efforts and strength. In reality, said God, he succeeded only because of what God had allowed and caused. It is arrogance to think we are solely responsible for our achievements. God, as Creator, rules.
Do you get arrogant? When? Why? What do you do about it?
In Jesus’ eyes
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, who ever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
James and John wanted the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom. But Jesus told them that true greatness comes in serving others. Most businesses, organizations, and institutions measure greatness by high personal achievement. In Christ’s kingdom, how ever service is the way to get ahead. The desire to be on top will hinder, not help. Rather than seeking to have your needs met, look for ways that you can minister to the needs of others.
How does Jesus’ life as a servant influence your view of spiritual power? Your view of relationships? Your use of spiritual gifts.
True repentance is revealed by our actions
In (Ex9:27-34) we see Pharaoh promised to let the Hebrews go, then immediately broke his promise and brought even more trouble upon the land. His actions reveal that his repentance was not real. We do damage to ourselves and to others if we pretend to change but don’t mean it.
Why is it so important to God that you recognize him as the Lord? Why should that be important to you? What are the alternatives? Which makes most sense to you?
What marks you as a follower of God?
In (Ex 13:6-9) we see that the way you raise your children, demonstrate love for others, show concern for the poor, and live in devotion to God – these actions will leave visible marks for all to see. While national groups are marked by customs and traditions, Christians are marked by loving one another.
By what symbolic means or other signs do you let God and your family know that he really is number one in your life? What is something you will “give over,” today to demonstrate God’s priority in your life? How do you feel about giving it over?
Balancing prayer with action
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
The Lord told Moses to stop praying and get moving! Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.
In what ways might this passage help you to trust God with your fears? What one battle would you like God to fight for you this week?
Complaining versus acting on problems
(1 Sm 7:2-3)
It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord. And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are retiring to the Lord with all your hearts, than rid yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines.
Israel mourned and sorrow gripped the nation for 20 years. The ark was put away like an unwanted box in an attic, and it seemed as if the Lord had abandoned his people. Samuel, now a grown man, roused them to action by saying that if they were truly sorry, they should do something about it. How easy it is for us to complain about our problems, even to God, while we refuse to act, change, and do what he requires. We don’t even take the advice he has already given us. Do you ever feel as if God has abandoned you? Check to see if there is anything he has already told you to do. You may not receive new guidance from God until you have acted on his previous directions.
What spiritual resolutions do you want to make at this point in your life? What obstacles stand in your way?
Act on what’s right
In (1 Kgs 1:11-14) we see Nathan learning of Adonijah’s conspiracy, he immediately tried to stop it. He was a man of both faith and action. He knew that Solomon should rightly be king, and he moved quickly when he saw someone else trying to take the throne. We often know what is right but don’t act on it. Perhaps we don’t want to get involved, or may be we are fearful or lazy. Don’t stop with prayer, good intentions, or angry feelings. Take the action needed to correct the situation.
In what way do you need to “set your eyes upon your King” for direction at this point in your life?
(James 1:25) (RSV)
“But he who… perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.”
Are you a watcher or a player, and missing out because of it. God, help me remember that You created us not to watch. In acting we may have to accept hardship. How difficult for Mary to give birth in a difficult situation. Becoming part of God’s plan doesn’t keep us from trouble but does give us the strength to keep going. maybe it’s hard to accept a new way. So what if we never did it this way before. Yes sometimes a brand new way of doing old things is okay. But we also must accept what cannot be. Then fill me with Your peace. Amen.” It is important to listen to what God’s Word says, but it is much more important to obey it; to do what it says. We can measure the effectiveness of our Bible study time by the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes.
Do you put into action what you think is right? Why not?
When we must take decisive action
He sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”
After the decree to kill the Jews was given, Mordecai and Ester could have despaired, decided to save only themselves, or just waited for God’s intervention. Instead, they saw that God had placed them in their positions for a purpose, so they seized the moment and acted. When it is within our reach to save others, we must do so. In a life-threatening situation, don’t withdraw, behave selfishly, wallow in despair, or wait for God to fix everything. Instead, ask God for his direction, and act! God may have place you where you are “for such a time as this.”
Can you imagine a situation where you would act against “common sense?”
God doesn’t act through those unwilling to act for him
In (Est 4:17-5:1) we see God was in control, yet Mordecai and Ester had to act. We cannot understand how both can be true at the same time, and yet they are. God chooses to work through those willing to act for him. We should pray as if all depended on God and act as if all depended on us. We should avoid two extremes: doing nothing, and feeling that we must do everything.
How do you show your readiness to do God’s will?
True faith results in
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Faith without deeds is death (James 2:14-26). Jesus’ harshest words were to the respectable religious leaders who lacked the desire for real change. The wanted to be known as religious authorities, but they didn’t want to change their hearts and minds. Thus their lives were unproductive. Repentance must be tied to action, or it isn’t real. Following Jesus means more than saying the right words; it means acting on what he says.
What one action will you take this week to “produce fruit in keeping with your repentance?”
Do your actions back up your words?
John the Baptist called people to more than words or ritual; he told them to change their behavior. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” means that God looks beyond our words and religious activities to see if our conduct backs up what we say, and he judges our words by the actions that accompany them.
Do your actions match your words?
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.”
The son who said he would obey and then didn’t represented the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day. They said they wanted to do God’s will, but they constantly disobeyed. They were phony, just going through the motions. It is dangerous to pretend to obey God when our hearts are far from him because God knows our true intentions. Our actions must match our words.
Which son’s story is most like your own? Why?
Good actions don’t always reflect good attitudes
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees were exacting and scrupulous in their attempts to follow their laws. So how could Jesus reasonably call us to a greater righteousness than theirs? The Pharisees’ weakness was that they were content to obey the laws outwardly without allowing God to change their hearts (or attitudes). Jesus was saying, therefore, that the quality of our goodness should be greater then that of the Pharisees. They looked pious, but they were far from the kingdom of God. God judges our hearts as well as our deeds, for it is in the heart that our real allegiance lies. Be just as concerned about your attitudes that people don’t see as about your actions that are seen by all.
Jesus was saying that his listeners needed a different kind of righteousness altogether (love and obedience), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ righteousness (legal compliance). Our righteousness must (1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves. (2) be God-centered, not self-centered, (3) be based on reverence for God not approval from people, and (4) go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles behind the law.
How can you tell which righteousness is yours?
Must be consistent with attitudes
“These people honor me with their lips
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain
their teachings are but rules thought by men.”
The prophet Isaiah also criticized hypocrites (Isaiah 29:13), and Jesus applied Isaiah’s words to these religious leaders. When we claim to honor God while our hearts are far from him, our worship means nothing. It is not enough to act religious. Our actions and our attitudes must be sincere. If they are not, Isaiah’s words also describe us.
What is one area in your life that needs changing in order to get your heart and mouth more in line with each other? What has God already done in you along that line?
Demonstrate what we think about Jesus
In (Mt 25:31-46) we see that God will separate his obedient followers from pretenders and unbelievers. The real evidence of our belief is the way we act. To treat all persons we encounter as if they are Jesus is no easy task. What we do for others demonstrates what we really think about Jesus words to us-feed the hungry, give the homeless a place to stay, look after the sick.
How well do your actions separate you from the pretenders and unbelievers?
Finding time with God in midst of
Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.”
Just before crossing over into the promised land, Joshua gathered the people to hear the words of the Lord. Their excitement was high. No doubt they wanted to rush on, but Joshua made them stop and listen. We live in a fast-paced age where every one rushes just to keep up. It is easy to get caught up in our tasks, becoming too busy for what God says is most important – listening to his words. Before making your schedule, take time to focus on what God wants from all your activities. Knowing what God has said before you rush into your day may help you stay with God’s plan for you.
In what way can you personally consecrate yourself for the amazing things” in your life God wants to do?
Committing spiritual adultery
“See how the faithful city
has become a harlot!
She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her-
but now murders!
Your silver has become dross,
Your choice wine is diluted with water.
“The faithful city” refers to Jerusalem, representing all of Judah. God compares the actions of his people to a harlot. The people had turned from the worship of the true God to worshipping idols. Their faith was defective, impure, and diluted. Idolatry, outward or inward, is spiritual adultery, breaking our commitment to God in order to love something else. Jesus described the people of his day as adulterous, even though they were religiously strict. As the church, we are the “bride” of Christ (Revelation 19:7), and by faith, we can be clothed in his righteousness. Has your faith become impure? Ask God to restore you. Keep your devotion to him strong and pure.
Was there a time in your life when religion was meaningless? What snapped you out of that? Does it tend to be that way now? Why?
Spiritual adultery and physical adultery are alike in many ways, and both are dangerous. God was disappointed with his people because they had committed spiritual adultery against him, as Gomer had committed physical adultery against Hosea.
Both spiritual and physical adultery are against God’s law. When we break God’s law in full awareness of what we’re doing, our hearts become hardened to the sin and our relationship with God is broken.
Both spiritual and physical adultery begin with disappointment and dissatisfaction – either real or imagined – with an already existing relationship. The feeling that God disappoints can lead you away from him. Feelings of disappointment and dissatisfaction are normal and, when endured will pass.
Both spiritual and physical adultery begin with diverting affection from one object of devotion to another. The diverting of our affection is the first step in the blinding process that leads into sin.
Both spiritual and physical adultery involve a process of deterioration; it is not usually an impulsive decision. The process is dangerous because you don’t always realize it is happening until it is too late.
Both spiritual and physical adultery involve the creation of a fantasy about what a new object of love can do for you. Such fantasy creates unrealistic expectations of what a new relationship can do and only leads to disappointment in all existing and future relationships.
Don’t take advantage of your position
(1 Sm 2:12ff)
“Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.”
Eli’s sons took advantage of their position to satisfy their lust for power, possessions, and control. Their contempt and arrogance toward both people and worship undermined the integrity of the whole priesthood.
Eli knew that his sons were evil, but he did little to correct or stop them, even when the integrity of God’s sanctuary was threatened. As the high priest, Eli should have responded by executing his sons (Numbers 15:22-31). No wonder he chose not to confront the situation. But by ignoring their selfish actions. Eli let his sons ruin their own lives and the lives of many others. There are times when serious problems must be confronted, even if the process and consequences could be painful.
Are you responding to situations as you should?
“Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning’s light they carry it out
because it is in their power to do it.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them.
They defraud a man of his home,
a fellowman of his inheritance.
Micah spoke out against those who planned evil deeds at night and rose at dawn to do them. A person’s thoughts and plans reflect his or her character. What do you think about as you lie down to sleep?
Do your desires involve greed or stepping on others to achieve your goals? Even thoughts lead to evil deeds.
Seek places of service, not advantage
And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,”
The disciples had become so preoccupied with the organization of Jesus’ earthly kingdom that they had lost sight of it’s divine purpose, instead of seeking a place of service, they sought positions of advantage. It is easy to lose our eternal perspective and compete for promotions or status in the church. It is difficult to identify with “children: – weak and dependent people with no status or influence.
What childlike quality do you need to recapture? Why?
Always seek God’s
Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day.”
Jacob spoke of God as his shepherd throughout his life. In his old age, he could clearly see his dependence upon God. This marks a total attitude change from that of his scheming and dishonest youth. To develop an attitude like Jacob’s let God shepherd you ass you trust in his provision and care. When you realize that every good thing comes from God, you can quit trying to grab them for yourself.
As you recall God’s dealings with Jacob, which of your own faith encounters with God come to mind? Why not thank him today for the special way the God of Jacob has been your Shepherd and angel?
Be careful about negativism in
In (Nm 13:33-14:4) we see that the negative opinion of ten men caused a great rebellion among the people. Because it is human nature to accept opinion as fact, we must be especially careful when voicing our negative opinions. What we say may heavily influence the actions of those who trust us to give sound advice.
Seek God’s even in minor issues
In (Jos 9:14-17) we see that when the leaders sampled these man’s provisions, they saw that the bread was dry and moldy, the wineskins were cracked, and the clothes and sandals worn out. But they did not see through the deception. After the promise had been made and the treaty ratified, the facts came out – Israel’s leaders had been deceived. God had specifically instructed Israel to make no treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan (Exodus 23:32; 34:12; Numbers 33:55; Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17, 18). As a strategist, Joshua knew enough to talk to God before leading his troops into battle. But the peace treaty seemed innocent enough, so Joshua and the leaders made this decision on their own. By failing to seek out guidance and rushing ahead with their own plans, they had to deal with angry people and an awkward alliance.
As a fearful and accursed Gibeonite, would you have fought for your freedom or submitted to perpetual slavery? Why? What does that say about your fighting style in general? Do you readily accept, or usually resist, authority imposed on you? Does it depend on who is doing the imposing? How so?
How to carefully evaluate it
In (1 Kgs 12:6-14) we see that Rehoboam asked for advice, but he didn’t carefully evaluate what he was told. If he had, he would have realized that the advice offered by the elders was wiser than that of his peers. To evaluate advice, ask if it is realistic, workable, and consistent with Biblical principles. Determine if the results of following the advice will be fair, make improvements, and give a positive solution or direction. Seek counsel from those more experienced and wiser Advice is helpful only if it is consistent with God’s standards.
Do you take advice well? Do you go it alone? What piece of your own advice do you never seem to follow?
In (2 Chr 10:1-15) we see that following bad advice can cause disaster. Rehoboam lost the chance to rule a peaceful, united kingdom because he rejected the advice of Solomon’s older counselors, preferring the counsel of his peers. Rehoboam made two errors in seeking advice. (1) he did not give extra consideration to the suggestions of those who knew the situation better than he, and (2) he did not ask God for wisdom to discern which was the better option.
It is easy to follow the advice of our peers because they often feel as we do. But their view may be limited. It is important to listen carefully to those who have more experience than we do – they can see the bigger picture.
Have you ever played the part of a “Christian bully”? Is the stiff punch ever necessary, or is the soft touch always the best policy? What Christian standards do you use in solving conflicts?
Don’t seek God’s advice if you’re going to ignore it
In (2 Chr 18:3-8(2)) we see that wicked Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join forces with him in battle (18:2-3). Before making that commitment, Jehoshaphat rightly sought God’s advice. However when God gave his answer through the prophet Micaiah (18:16). Jehoshaphat ignore it (18:28). It does no good to seek God’s advice if we ignore it when it is given. Real love for God is shown not by merely asking for direction, but by following that direction once it is given.
Truth or Consequences: How difficult is it to tell the truth no matter what? To family? At work? To God?
Control the way we live
In (Prv. 4:23-27) we see that the our heart – our feelings of love and desire – dictates to a great extent how we live because we always find time to do what we enjoy. Solomon tells us to guard our heart above all else, making sure we concentrate on those desires that well keep us on the right path. Make sure your affections push you in the right direction. Put boundaries on your desires: don’t go after everything you see. Look straight ahead, keep your eyes fixed on your goal, and don’t get sidetracked on detours that lead to sin.
What are you willing to do to help straighten out (or “make level”) someone else’s path?
Humility is realistic affirmation
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How can we humble ourselves? Some people try to give the appearance of humility in order to manipulate others. Others think that humility means putting themselves down. Truly humble people compare themselves only with Christ, realize their sinfulness and understand their limitations. On the other hand they also recognize their gifts and strengths and are willing to use them as Christ directs. Humility is not self-degradation, it is realistic assessment and commitment to serve.
How do things like customs and status get in the way of loving others in your family? Church? Work place? Community?
Don’t break the agreement you made to follow God
In (Dt 2:14-15) we see that Israel did not have to spend 40 years on the way to the promised land. God sentence them to desert wanderings because they rejected his love, rebelled against his authority, ignored his commands for right living, and willfully broke their end of the agreement made in Exodus 19:8 and 24:3-8. In short, they disobeyed God. We often make life’s journey more difficult than necessary by disobedience.. Accept God’s love, read and follow his commands in the Bible, and make a promise to stick with God whatever your situation. You will find that your life will be less complicated and more rewarding.
What challenge are you facing in your life today? What provision do you need from God? What have you learned here about Good’s character that can help calm and strengthen you for that challenge?
Agreeing to God’s plan for us
Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.”
If we are going to complete the tasks God has given us, we must fully agree to his plan, pledge ourselves to obey it, and put his principles into action. Agreeing to God’s plan means both knowing what the plan is and caring it out DAILY.
Aided by the Holy Spirit
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Jesus looked ahead to a new day when he would be present with his follower’s not bodily, but through his Holy Spirit. In the body of believers (the church), the sincere agreement of two people is more powerful than the superficial agreement of thousands, because Christ’s Holy Spirit is with them. Two or more believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, will pray according to God’s will, not their own, thus their requests will be granted.
Inappropriate ambition is greed in disguise
In (Nm 16:8-10) we see that like Korah, we often desire the special qualities God has given others. Korah had significant worthwhile abilities and responsibilities of his own. In the end, however, his ambition for more caused him to lose everything. Inappropriate ambition is greed in disguise. Concentrate on finding the special purpose God has for you.
With what area of your life is your trust in God wavering? How might this lack of trust undermine your ability to succeed in this area? What will you do this week to begin trusting God alone?
Shouldn’t be motivated by selfishness
In (Jgs 9:2-5) we see that Israel’s king was to be the Lord and not a man. But Abimelech wanted to usurp the position reserved for God alone. In his selfish quest, he killed all but one of his 70 half brothers. people with selfish desires often seek to fulfill them in ruthless ways. Examine your ambitions to see if they are self-centered or God-centered. Be sure you always fulfill your desires in ways that God would approve.
Of what wicked thing would you like to rid yourself? What might frighten you about this assignment?
In (2 Sm 5:12) we see that David knew that his greatness came only from God. To be great means keeping a close relationship with God personally and nationally. To do this, David had to keep his ambition under control. Although he was famous, successful, and well liked, he gave God first place in his life and served the people according to God’s purposes. Do you seek greatness from God or from people? In the drive for success, remember to keep your ambition under God’s control.
If you had absolute assurance that “the Lord was with you.”, how would your coming week be affected? What fears would dissipate? What new mission would you take on? What old habits would you break?
When Henry was the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Canada, his goal was not to set the direction for the church but to bring the people into such an intimate relationship with Christ that Christ could lead the church and the people would follow. It was not an issue of selling a vision. It was a matter of helping the people learn how to recognize God’s voice. It wasn’t easy. At first the people were so disoriented to the ways of God that they had difficulty recognizing his working right in their midst. Len Koster, the pastor of missions, would report to the church that he had discovered a group of people in a nearby town that had been praying for several years for a church to be started in their community. Initially, our church members would immediately focus on their limited resources and the difficulties involved in providing a ministry to that place. As the people grew to know and trust God more, however, their receptivity to what God was doing greatly increased, After they had walked with God and had seen how he worked in people’s lives and had witnessed his miraculous provision of resources to meet every need, the people became eager to get involved in what they saw him doing next.
In subsequent situations, when Len Koster reported that he had found another community in need of a church, the Holy Spirit would confirm with the membership whether this was God’s invitation for our church to join him in his work. The people would recognize the opportunities that had the mark of God’s presence upon them. The people of the church no longer needed their pastor to explain everything to them. They now had a mature relationship with God themselves. They had the same ability to hear from God as their Christian leader did. If the success of the church had depended solely upon what I was able to see, the church would not have accomplished very much. But when the entire membership began responding in faith and obedience to God’s direction, the effectiveness of the church multiplied.
Father, often I feel as though my good behavior is ignored or forgotten.. Forgive me for being prideful, and help me to know that you see me at both my best and worst, and love me all the time. Amen.