A Test of Love – Judges 2:11-23

lovetest“So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, ‘Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.’ So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua” (Judges 2:20-23, NASB).

Because of Israel’s continual disobedience to God’s covenant with them, God allowed other Canaanite people-groups whom the Israelites were supposed to destroy completely to remain in the promised land. Although God left these enemies in the land to test the Israelites (3:1-4), it was Israel who failed to drive them out as God had commanded.

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Memo to Myself: No Whining – Proverbs 24:10

no-whining“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10, ESV).

How do you handle problems when you encounter them? Do you get angry, frustrated, or depressed? Do you keep them to yourself or do you complain to your friends or family? Do you blame God for your problems? Why did God let this happen to me?

While God doesn’t cause all our problems, God does use our problems to build our character! So, if the small problems get you down, if you constantly complain about all your problems, then God probably needs to do some more character-building with you.

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Fruit or Foliage? – John 15:1-2,5

grapevine“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit…I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:1-2,5, HCSB).

These verses contain the last of seven “I am” declarations made by Jesus in John’s Gospel.  “I am” is an allusion to God’s name by which God identified Himself to the Israelites: “God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

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Living for the Future in the Present, Part 1 – 1 Timothy 4:7-8

lifting_weights“Train yourself in godliness for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, HCSB).

In this verse the Apostle Paul is explaining to his protege, Timothy, that we live our present life in preparation for eternity. Paul says that we should live our lives in anticipation of eternal life!

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Heavenly Discipline – Hebrews 12:10

discipline“But he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10, ESV).

Just as our earthly parents disciplined us and we respected them for it, so God disciplines us and we should respect Him as well.

God’s discipline proves that He considers believers to be his children.

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Is God Mad At Us? – Jeremiah 30:11,24

lightningbolt“For I am with you and will save you, says the Lord…I will discipline you, but with justice; I cannot let you go unpunished…The fierce anger of the Lord will not diminish until it has finished all he has planned. In the days to come you will understand all this” (Jeremiah 30:11,24, NLT).

God gave Jeremiah a message of hope for Israel that contrasted with his usual message of gloom and doom.

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Run To Win – I Corinthians 9:24-27

runtowin“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (I Corinthians 9:24-27, NLT).

In these verses the Apostle Paul explains that one’s salvation is not a single occurrence, a bi-monthly activity, or even a semi-annual event. It is a way of life that requires daily discipline and training.

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God Don’t Carry No Grudges – Psalm 30:4-5

“Sing to Yahweh, you His faithful ones, and praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5,HCSB).

If you have children, I would dare say that you have been mad at them on more than one occasion because of their misbehavior.

The anger occurs because you don’t want them to grow up acting badly and you probably expressed that concern to them in some form or manner.

But you punish the child if the misbehavior warrants punishment, and then you move on and don’t hold it against the child for the rest of his or her lifetime.

For God’s people, His faithful ones, He acts toward us in much the same way.

God acts like a loving and benevolent father who disciplines us when needed, but continually loves and blesses us.

That concept is easy for us to grasp because that’s generally the way we relate to our children.

What we don’t seem to understand, sometimes, is that God shows His favor to reconcile us to Him for our misbehavior. God gets over our misbehavior but sometimes we don’t think He does.

We somehow believe that God is always mad at us because we don’t live up to His expectations and then we don’t ever become all He wants us to be.

God’s anger, His discipline, only lasts for a short while, but His favor and blessing, His lovingkindness, last for a lifetime–no, for an eternity!

So, I think the psalmist is saying that God is not mad at you all the time like you think He is!

Where I come from, we might even say it like this: God don’t carry no grudges!

God’s not mad at you about something you did and shouldn’t have done or didn’t do and should have done a long time ago or last week or maybe even yesterday.

So there’s no need to feel sorry for yourself because you think God is mad at you.

Let the joy of the Lord infiltrate your day, your life; today start becoming everything God wants you to be in Him!  

“Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14,HCSB).

God’s Merit Badges – Job 36:15

“God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; He instructs them by their torment” (Job 36:15, HCSB).

In the story of Job, Elihu was the fourth and last to speak from among Job’s friends. Elihu was younger than the others and waited to speak, giving deference to the older men.

Though younger, Elihu believed he was speaking God’s truth in confronting Job, but he claimed neither human superiority nor inferiority to Job.

Elihu had listened carefully to Job’s claims of being pure and innocent and being unjustly oppressed by God.

And Elihu reminded Job that as a human being, he was not in a position to bring accusations against God, his Creator.

Elihu declared to Job that instead of being a sign of God’s unconcern as Job had supposed, affliction was a mark of God’s mercy, keeping one from the path of iniquity.

In other words, the very thing that afflicts you may also be what saves you.

God can use your affliction to rescue and restore you to Him and His will. Your affliction can spiritually develop you into a human being that is prepared for spending eternity with God!

Admittedly, affliction is not my first choice for spiritual growth. In fact, I like to avoid affliction as much as possible. So, I often recite from the Lord’s prayer the supplication that Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from affliction: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, HCSB).

Indeed, our affliction may sometimes be one way that God deals with issues in our lives that could potentially cause us to be unfaithful. But this verse does not say that God afflicts us, but that He rescues and restores us through our affliction. (Remember, it was Satan that afflicted Job; it was Satan that tested Job, not God.)

Because affliction causes us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy!

That which causes my pain and suffering is also that which can restore me to intimacy with God.
     That which causes me to give up and quit is also that which empowers me to endure and persevere.

So what we perceive to be our problem is actually the solution to our problem!

In fact, our affliction may even prevent evil or temptation from overtaking or overcoming us: “Be careful that you do not turn to iniquity, for that is why you have been tested by affliction” (vs. 21).

When I was a boy, I joined the boy scouts. In scouting you earn merit badges for demonstrating a useful skill or a good behavior. By earning merit badges, a scout may advance in rank. Advancement in rank acknowledges the scout’s growing ability to serve others better.

Our afflictions are God’s merit badges. They are designed to empower us to become more obedient and productive as Jesus’s disciples.

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7, HCSB)

The Righteousness Test – Job 23:10-12

“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food” (Job 23:10-12, NLT).

Did you ever sit down to take a test in school and wonder where the questions came from?

The test questions didn’t ask for any facts or information you read about in the text or discussed in class. Instead, the test questions expected you to analyze and apply the facts and information you had read or discussed.

And, you probably thought the test was unfair and maybe even complained to the teacher or at least to other students.

That is what happened to Job.

When Job’s faith was tested by God, at first Job doubted that he could plead his case to God.

In this passage Job expresses confidence that when God tests him, he can, in fact, ask God for an explanation of the test.

In reality, God wasn’t testing Job’s faith; Satan was.

But God does use the difficulties in life that confront us–emanating either from Satan or from our own mistakes–to instruct us in His holiness and righteousness and build our faith in Him.

It’s the righteousness test!

God knows where we are going in life, and the righteousness test keeps us on the path to where He wants us to go.

And when God uses our suffering to teach us about His righteousness, then like Job we will conclude: “He controls my destiny” (vs. 14).

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).