Faith And Fleeces

Not only is the practice of setting out fleeces an indication of an immature faith, but it has some built-in problems associated with it. One
problem is that you can never be really sure with a fleece! Suppose you ask God for a sign from heaven in order to know if you should go on a certain trip or continue a certain relationship, and 3 days later you see a shooting star! “Wow!” you say. But then you begin to wonder, “Was that a sign from God or just a coincidence?” So what do you do next? Chances are that you’ll do exactly what Gideon did–you’ll “tighten the boundaries” on the sign to be really sure. “Lord, may I see 3 shooting stars in the northern sky in the next 48 hours, if my decision is Your will!” But can you ever put out enough fleeces to be 100% sure? And where does faith end and manipulation of God begin?

Tightening the boundaries leads to another built-in problem. Fleece-setting may not be wrong but it comes dangerously close to testing the Lord, which definitely is wrong. When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Christ for a sign, the Scriptures says that they tested Him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1). The Bible explicitly teaches that putting God to the test is a sin. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). If you walk across an Interstate highway and expect not to get hit by a truck because God promises to protect us, that’s testing God!

A Christian who puts out a fleece and asks God for a sign isn’t exactly putting God to the test, but when we begin to tighten the boundaries on the signs we request we’re moving in that direction. If we ask the Lord to, “Make the phone ring by noon tomorrow if You want me to take that new job (or move to that new location),” we’ve really boxed God in–into a box of our making! We have set the conditions and we are forcing God to confirm His will for us on our terms! Doesn’t this come perilously close to testing God? The more we tighten the boundaries to force God’s hand, the closer we come to the “Interstate” illustration. How much better to use the normal means that God has given us to make decisions (primarily the guidelines of Scripture–including sanctified common sense!), and then ask God to confirm our decisions or guide us to different decisions in ways of His own choosing.

Asking God to confirm our decisions without restricting Him to doing it our way is not the same as setting out a fleece. To request that the Lord show us in some clear way if we’ve made or are about to make a decision that is not in accordance with His will is not the same as demanding a particular sign from God. The Lord does not play games with us. He desires that we make right decisions, and He delights to confirm us in these decisions! We do not have to put out fleeces to remind our heavenly Father that His well-loved and intimately known children need His perfect confirmation in their walk of faith. We really can trust His promise: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

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Does Your Marriage Need Some Spring Cleaning?

“Spring cleaning” … that ritual of scrubbing our homes from top to bottom. The goal is a house that is fresh and clean.

Well, for many of us … our marriages may need a little “spring cleaning”! Because they get cluttered with hurt feelings and unresolved issues that can make them unbearable. Here are four activities that will help us spring clean our marriages:

Clearing the Clutter
Odds are we’ve hurt our spouses. We need to take responsibility for our words and actions … even if our intentions were not to hurt … and apologize. “Sweeping stuff under the rug” piles clutter up and will ultimately produce a trip hazard … so swallow your pride and say: “I’m sorry, will you please forgive me?”

When our spouses come seeking forgiveness … we’re commanded to pardon (Matthew 18). Forgiveness “takes out the trash” that clutters relationships. Unforgiveness keeps that trash piled up to stink! Who likes living in a smelly pile of trash?!

Fixing and Finishing
We usually discover some uncompleted “projects” that need to be “fixed or finished.” Unresolved issues about money, kids, work … etc. all need to be nailed down through open and honest conversations.

We get so comfortable that we neglect to show our spouses how much we really love them; and begin to mutually co-exist. It’s time to “dust off” the romance so you can see the luster of loving date nights, notes, flowers, favorite meals, massages, kind words, holding hands … once you get started it’ll come back to you!!

Scrubbing the Spots
We’ll probably uncover some “selfish spots” that need to be removed. Marriages thrive on both spouses being selfless. Putting ourselves second is not easy … it requires some “scrubbing” by the Holy Spirit to help us surrender to God and our spouses.

Spring cleaning our homes requires hard work, intentional behavior and an action plan. So does “spring cleaning” our marriages. But the results of a clean, fresh home and a loving, fulfilling marriage are worth the effort.

Does your marriage need some spring cleaning? Where are you going to start today? (HOUSE ON THE ROCK FAMILY MINISTRIES)

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The True Sabbath Rest

Should we also keep the Sabbath by refraining from work and travel? As we have seen throughout the Book of Nehemiah, these regulations imposed upon Israel were what the New Testament calls shadows, pictures of something even more important that God wants observed. You observe the Sabbath when you fulfill what the Sabbath portrays.

At the heart of the Sabbath is the word rest. The Sabbath is intended for people, that they may
learn to rest. The Sabbath is God’s stress management program! It is how to prevent burnout—how to recover from too much pressure and catch up with yourself. It is how to gather yourself together and become able to handle the work you must do.

There are two reasons given in the Scripture for the Sabbath. The first one is found in Exodus 20:11. There we are told that because God finished creation in six days and then rested on the seventh day, He asked His people to rest after six days of labor. Why did God rest? He accomplished His objective. People too must recognize a limit to their work. There is a need to stop, to allow the body, mind, and spirit to recognize their limitations.

The second reason the Sabbath was given is often ignored. God said to Israel, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). They were to rest in order to reflect on God’s ability to work beyond the labors they had already completed.

So there are two aspects of the Sabbath—creation and redemption. There is a rest of cessation; a ceasing from our own works. But then there is the rest of rejoicing in the mighty delivering power of God.

Father, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of my life, teach me that I need to enter into the rest of creation and redemption, always remembering that Your work comes before my work.

Life Application
Are we at rest because of the work God has done and is doing in us? Are we relying on our own strength rather than understanding His power as the source? (RAY STEDMAN MINISTRIES)

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Your Role – In The World But Not Of It

What is our role as Christians? In John 17, Jesus said that His followers had been called “out of the world,” yet were still “in the world” (John 17:6 & 11). The old Puritan Thomas Watson used a good analogy when he said that a Christian in the world is like a ship in the ocean. It’s one thing for the ship to be in the water, but when the water gets into the ship, it tends to sink.

God’s grace teaches us to keep ungodliness and worldly lusts from seeping into our lives (Titus 2:11-12). When we understand what Jesus has done for us, we begin to say, “I’m going to disown some things. I’m going to deny that. I’m not going to live like that anymore.”

I’ve told people over the years that when we become Christians, God installs something in our souls called “The Automatic Sin Alarm System.” It’s like a buzzer that rings in our conscience. The attitudes and habits that once pleased us now make us uncomfortable. We have to learn to make strategic, but hopefully graceful, exits from certain relationships, environments, situations, or invitations. It takes wisdom to know how to be part of the world, yet not of it; but there are areas we can clearly see easily.

One area is our activities. In coming to Christ, we have to unlearn our former way of life and develop new choices. This was a constant refrain of the New Testament authors. Peter, for example, told his readers: “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” “Of course,” he added, “your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:3-5).

This is why Christians must understand the secret of gracefully, but firmly saying No when our friends encourage us to do things, go places, think thoughts, say words, plan deeds, or engage in activities that would damage our testimony and displease our Lord. It takes a lot of courage to resist the temptations, but through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, we are empowered to deny those temptations and to live for Him.

The greatest role-reversal occurs in the area of our attitudes. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Before knowing Christ we were hateful, unloving, and alienated in our minds from God. Now we are developing love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As Christians, you and I sometimes have to withdraw from a situation that isn’t healthy or holy. When grace makes its entrance into our lives, it teaches us how to make a graceful exit—leaving behind our former way of life. There are ways of doing it without being angry or ugly. Or, if all else fails, just say: No!

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Personally Praying The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer is a biblical treasure we may take for granted because of its familiarity. We often recite it by rote, rather than pray it. The Lord’s Prayer can warm our hearts devotionally, enrich our relationship with God, and aid our intercession. The treasures of this prayer are both fresh and familiar. It is refreshing, encouraging, and insightful. It is the greatest prayer taught by the greatest Person. It starts with the greatest, most personal title for God, our Father.

Praying the Lord’s prayer, not just saying it, can jumpstart a sluggish devotional life and take our prayer lives to a new level. These words of Jesus, rich in personal application, transform us from the inside out. Ask God for the gift of reading slowly. These 60-plus words are worth a lifetime of meditation and application in prayer. What could be more powerful than Christ-modeled prayer?

The Lord’s prayer highlights relationships of prayer: child to Father, worshiper to holy God, subject to King in His throne room, servant to Master, beggar to Provider, sinner to Savior, follower to Guide, dependent one to Protector, and subject to Sovereign Glory. This prayer reflects intimacy in family relationship, reverence for the Name above all names, submission to the sovereignty and will of the King, total dependence and reliance on the Giver of every good gift, cleansing from sin by our Redeemer, victory over temptation and ultimate triumph over the evil one by our Deliverer, and the power and glory of our eternal Lord of lords.

The Lord’s prayer contains a focus of worship, a concise petition for basic physical needs, a standard of forgiveness, and urgent pleas for protection. It contains all the elements for a “Minimum Daily Requirement” prayer (worship, yielding to God’s purposes, guidance, petition, forgiveness, victory over sin, victory in spiritual warfare, and focus on the magnificence of God). On the other hand, it is more than minimum and has limitless opportunities for expansion. God will bring to mind other parts of His Word that we can meditatively bring to bear on each of the index sentences of the prayer. It covers every aspect of life: relationship with God, with others, and to the forces of spiritual warfare that oppose us each day.

Meditate on it before you get out of bed in the morning and throughout the day. It is completely portable. Isn’t this better than idle thoughts, fears, past failures, future worries, and whatever else usually occupies our souls during those otherwise mentally-unemployed times? (SYLVIA GUNTHER)

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Is The Bible Still Relevant Today?

Sure, the Bible was relevant once upon a time, in that long-ago era of shepherds and scribes. That story of how the Hebrew people emerged from their centuries of slavery in Egypt is a gripping account, but does it have any connection to my world of lightning fast e-mails and jet travel? The problems of a fish swallowing a disobedient prophet named Jonah and how to get Daniel out of a den of lions seem pretty far removed from resurrecting my crashed hard drive. Can we relate at all to such strange and mystifying events today?

Little wonder then that the French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) said that in a hundred years from his day the Bible would have passed into the mists of history as people became more liberated and enlightened. Today a group of people known as the Jesus Seminar tell us that huge sections of the New Testament are not genuine but were concocted by writers who weaseled their own thoughts into the Bible. Others have attacked the names and dates and events and numbers in the Bible and proclaimed that the book is riddled with errors.

Yet as far as reliability is concerned, it’s only fair to note that the Bible contains the best documented text of any volume in human history. The most amazing support comes from the Dead Sea scrolls which were discovered in 1947 after lying in the Qumran caves for nearly 2000 years. Here were thousands of pieces from the Old Testament, and some were nearly a thousand years older than anything we had before. And yet there is a 98% similarity to the texts that are in common use. Our treasure of God’s revelation has come down to us intact!

But is the ancient book really relevant to the issues of our frenetic, post-modern world of microscopes and satellites? This is a question asked by those who are racing through life with little time for reflection on their destiny or why they are here. But for those who are unexpectedly slammed onto a hospital bed, life takes on a much different quality! Suddenly in the long, agonizing hours punctuated only by the clicking of a heart monitor, there is time to reflect on a new set of questions, timeless questions which have not changed much through the centuries. Does anyone really love me? Is there any hope for me? How do I get in touch with God right now?

It is then that these questions about the relevance of the Bible tend to fade away. The comfort and the hope embodied in the Bible suddenly become totally relevant.

Christians do find the Bible relevant! For us, life is not simply an empty journey, a trip to acquire more toys until eventually it’s all over. From the pages of the Bible we read about our role in God’s design and kingdom, and how our lives are touched with purpose and meaning. And at the end there is more than a gloomy extinction at the conclusion of a hectic life, but a great reunion where I plan to meet Jesus face to face.

Along the miles of concrete I traverse every day, I have a guide, a beacon. It’s not in the form of a dead book, but it’s a living guide for the journey. By the way, Voltaire is dead now, but the book he derided is today more widely read and pondered than ever. The house in which Voltaire lived later became a distribution center – for Bibles. (INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY)

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Quotes That Celebrate Inner Beauty/Quotes On How To Consider Wealth

“No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It is about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart, and most importantly a beautiful soul.” ― Anonymous

“Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty – they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.” ― Martin Buxbaum

“That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful.” ― Ninon de L’Enclos

“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from within you – the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This beauty will never disappear, and it is worth very much to God.”
― 1 Peter 3:3-4

“Rich people should consider that they are only trustees for what they possess, and should show their wealth to be more in doing good than merely in having it. They should not reserve their benevolence for purposes after they are dead, for those who give not of their property till they die show that they would not then if they could keep it any longer.” ― Ross Joseph Hall

“Material wealth is either a window through which we see God or a mirror in which we see ourselves.” ― Warren Wiersbe

“It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

“Love leaves legacy. How you treated other people, not your wealth or accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth.”
― Rick Warren

“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.” ― Billy Graham

“The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.” ― Billy Sunday

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Thyatira: The Church Of Tolerance And Sleaze

Jesus gave the church in Thyatira a shout out because they worked hard; they sacrificed for the sake of others and were known for their faith, love, and patience were gracious in their service and hospitality. Sounds pretty good, huh? Hold on! The wheels are coming off the wagon in just a moment.

There was a woman in the church that Jesus called ‘Jezebel’, whether this was her real name, or the name that Jesus gave her to signify her character. She was teaching some pretty bad stuff, and people were following her. John MacArthur suggests that she might have been teaching philosophical dualism – that the spirit is good, the flesh is evil and since God is only interested in the spirit it doesn’t matter what one does with the body. Jezebel might also have taught that since the Christians in Thyatira live under grace it didn’t matter how much they sinned. God would still forgive them.

I hope you can immediately see the problems with both philosophies. God cares what we do with our bodies for they are the temples of His Spirit. He cares about every part of our body, from the top of our head to the tips of our toes. He also will hold us accountable for every decision, every act, every word.

In the Old Testament story of Jezebel, she was all about Baal worship, so perhaps this woman in the church at Thyatira was enticing the Christians to worship Baal, which involved male and female temple prostitutes and obscene sex acts. Jesus said that this woman enticed His people into sexual immorality. See anything familiar there? Pornography.

Jesus says that judgment is getting ready to fall. He is warning those who are the faithful that when judgment falls, it will involve suffering and death. Jezebel’s ‘children’ will suffer, so apparently the church had allowed this woman free reign for quite a while…long enough for her to have ‘spiritual’ children who followed her.

In Thyatira it was impossible to hold a job if you did not belong to a guild, and belonging to a guild required that you worship the deity with which the guild affiliated. It is quite likely that some of the people in the church at Thyatira had embraced Jezebel and her false gospel and ways in order to make a living. They had fallen victim to the false gospel of tolerance and unity at all costs. Some of the harshest punishment a person can face is for leading others into sin according to Matthew 18:6-10.

Jesus offered words of encouragement for those who overcome or hold fast. They are promised a position of power and ruling authority. This promise is likely referencing the coming heavenly kingdom. Jesus also tells the overcomers that they will have a close, intimate, abiding, and eternal relationship with Him as the reward for their faithfulness.

The Thyatiran church has an important message to the church in 2018 – false doctrine and sin are not to be allowed – even under the banner of love, toleration, and unity. (LEAH ADAMS)

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