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Twists & Turns
And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
From the moment he appeared on the scene, the serpent began his work: taking the Word of God and twisting it. He casts doubt and enjoys making obedience to God seem undesirable; he delights in making us believe that life with God is second best.
Today, Satan continues to create chaos and spin lies. It's easy to become discouraged at the results of his work in the world, but God has revealed the final plot twist in the book of Revelation: Jesus is victorious over Satan. We can have courage and hope because the final victory belongs to God, and we are His. Satan's lies and deception will be revealed for the emptiness they are and his work will cease.
Christ came for us, despite our acceptance of Satan’s deceit. In Christ, we are free today and forever. Satan’s final scene reminds us that God is sovereign: nothing can compete with Him. Knowing how the story ends can inspire us to daily pursue God and His truth. Despite life’s twists and turns, we know that a life lived with God is second to none.
There are dozens of references to God in the Scriptures for every one to the figure of Satan. This reflects a sometimes forgotten theological truth that the devil is by no means God’s counterpart. He is a creature, not the Creator.
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Galatians 5:13-14 The Golden Rule is found, in varying forms, in all religious and cultural traditions, many predating the time of Christ. Ethicists call it the “rule of reciprocity”—letting how we desire others to act toward us be the guide for how we act toward them. But when Jesus Christ stated His version of the Golden Rule, He gave it a twist that had been missing in other cultures.
Prior to Jesus, the rule of reciprocity had been stated in negative terms only. For instance, the Jewish book of Tobit said, “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” In other words, prior to Jesus, the Golden Rule focused on what not to do to others. But when Jesus stated it, He put it in positive terms: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” Instead of only withholding negative actions, Jesus said to demonstrate positive actions: Be proactive in your behavior toward others by loving them the same way you would want to be loved. He said such a proactive posture was a good way to summarize the whole Old Testament: “the Law and the Prophets.”
Not doing bad things is commendable, but doing good things is even better. Doing both is to love as God loves.
Our job is to love people we don’t have to love.
Who’s Who: Mary, the Mother of John Mark
So, when [Peter] had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.
Acts 1:12-17 Being called by one’s name is a sign of inclusion, a sign that we are “known.” But when Luke, the writer of Acts, mentions a significant woman by name, he has to explain who she was because she was not well known: “Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark.” Most people would have been familiar with Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and missionary assistant to Barnabas and Paul. But very few knew Mark’s mother’s name.
Mary was not a leader that we know of. But she used what she had to serve the Jerusalem church. She apparently had a large house—vestibule, courtyard, and possibly two stories of living area—and a servant. Her house could be the one referred to as a meeting place in Acts 1:12-17; it was definitely a meeting place in Acts 12:12-17. It was the place where the church gathered to pray for Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem.
You may not have a large house and servants, but everybody has something to use—including the abilities and spiritual gift(s) God has given you. Ask God to show you how to use for Him what you have from Him.
The highest honor in the church is not government but service.
Feeling Versus Doing
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
1 Corinthians 13:4
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
It could be debated whether Elizabeth Barrett Browning answered the important question posed by the title of her famous poem: “How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43).” The answers she gives are rather abstract, based more on feelings than actions: as far as the soul can reach, freely, purely, with passion, with the breath, smiles, and tears of life. These are beautiful thoughts, no doubt, but harder to measure than Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
If Paul were to answer Ms. Browning’s question, he might say, “I love you by being patient, being kind, by not being envious, self-promoting, or proud. I love you by being courteous, by meeting your needs ahead of my own, by not being easily provoked, by thinking the best of you. I love you by being truthful, long-suffering, positive, and hopeful” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Poetry often lifts us to the heights of feeling while practicality lowers us to the reality of doing. Both are important, but when we say “I love you,” actions always speak louder than words.
God loved by giving sacrificially (John 3:16)—a good place for us to begin as well.
Christian love is not the victim of our emotions but the servant of our will.
John R. W. Stott
Believing Is Seeing
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Before the pioneering work of British surgeon Joseph Lister, it was thought that “bad (infected) air” was the cause of spreading diseases in hospitals. Surgeons operated without sterile hands or instruments. Lister discovered that carbolic acid was an effective disinfectant for hands, wounds, and surgical instruments. His work increased the understanding of the role of germs in spreading, and preventing, disease.
Germs couldn’t be seen, but their effects could be. Survival of patients was “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And that is what faith is. We cannot apprehend faith with our senses, but we can definitely see its evidence. We see the world that exists and believe God created it (Hebrews 11:3). We can see the changes in our lives and believe the power of God is responsible (John 9:25). We pray and believe God answers our prayers (James 1:6). Like Abraham, we trust God’s words and believe we are made righteous in His sight (Genesis 15:6).
Don’t let faith be a stumbling block. Faith is ultimately dependent on the object of faith—in our case, God and His words. Place your faith in the God you cannot see—believing is seeing.
At the end of the day, faith means letting God be God.
When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
These days it is easy to be amazed. With access to videos from all over the world via the Internet, we see things we have never seen before in all realms of life: science, sports, nature, even dogs riding skateboards and surfboards. “Wow, that’s amazing!” has become a cliché—but only because it’s most often true. We do live in an amazing world.
What do you think amazed Jesus? While there are many instances in the four Gospels of people being amazed at Jesus’ words and works, there are only two times when we read of Jesus being amazed at something (or “marveling” at something). Both times, He was amazed at faith—once when He found it where He least expected it (Luke 7:9) and once where He didn’t find it when He most expected it (Mark 6:6). Faith, or its absence, is apparently a subject of amazement to Jesus. He works in its presence (Luke 7) and doesn’t work in its absence (Mark 6).
If you want to amaze Jesus and commend yourself to Him, pray with great faith. After all, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith is to believe what we cannot see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.
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Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
Psalm 51:1-2, 7-12
Most of us would call this symbol—∞—a figure “8” turned sideways, but math majors know it as the symbol for infinity. Our English word “infinite” comes from the Latin infinitus, a combination of in (not) and finitus (finished). Therefore, infinity means “not finished” or never-ending.
Infinity isn’t easy to grasp, but it is biblical. For instance, Psalm 147:5 says, “[God’s] understanding is infinite”—His understanding is limitless. Paul doesn’t use the word infinity in Ephesians 3:20, but the impact is the same: God is able to do far beyond what we ask or think. There are limits to our thoughts, and God is able to do far beyond our limits in everything. Consider the matter of forgiveness. If we think there are limits to God’s forgiveness of our sins, we need to remember that God is able to exceed our limits in terms of what we ask or think. In fact, the Bible gives no reason to think there are limits at all on God’s love and forgiveness.
If you despair of asking God to forgive you “yet again” for your sins, remember that His understanding—and His forgiveness—are infinite.
God does not wish us to remember what He is willing to forget.
George A. Buttrick
Satan’s Subtle Strategy
[Satan] said to [Jesus], “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Satan’s attacks against Job were two-fold. First, Satan destroyed Job’s children and property (Job 1-2). Those attacks were directly against Job himself. The second stage—Job’s struggle to maintain his confidence in God—was longer, more subtle, and more indirect: as evidenced by Job’s wife’s challenge: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). There is no direct evidence that Satan inspired Job’s wife’s words, but given his proximity to the situation, it is reasonable to assume it was part of his overall attack.
Which is more advantageous to Satan—to make you uncomfortable in the short term or to destroy your long-term confidence in the love and faithfulness of God? Obviously, the latter. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his second temptation was an attempt to negate Jesus’ trust in God’s care.
If Satan can convince you that God doesn’t love you, forgive you, or care for you, he will have neutralized your faith.
I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
For Dads by Charles R. Swindoll
I don’t often recommend a volume without reservation, but I think every man should read Temptations Men Face by Tom Eisenman. I’m not saying I agree with everything in it, or that you will, but it’s one of those works that deserves being read . . . especially by men. I appreciate Tom’s candor and practicality. He pulls no punches; neither does he wrench your gut with guilt. His observations, insight, and suggestions are both penetrating and provocative. In fact . . . that book got me thinking about the top temptations father face.
First, the temptation to give things instead of giving ourselves—our presence, our personal involvement.
Don’t misunderstand. Providing for one’s family is biblical. First Timothy 5:8 calls the man who fails to provide for his family’s needs “worse than an unbeliever.” But the temptation I’m referring to goes far beyond the basic level of need. It’s the toys vs. time battle: a dad’s desire to make up for his long hours and absence by unloading material stuff on his family rather than being there when he is needed. Like in the bleachers during ball games or in the audience during a band concert, like by your child’s side when the homework calls for a father’s encouragement, or driving the boat when your child is learning to water ski. Nothing takes the place of a father who gets involved. N-O-T-H-I-N-G!
Second, the temptation to save our best for the workplace.
Nobody has an endless supply of emotional energy, creativity, enthusiasm, ideas, humor, leadership drive, and a zest for life. How easy it is for dads to use up all those things at work, leaving virtually nothing for the end of the day. As a result, the wife and kids get only the leftovers. Fathers, our families deserve better! By failing to pace ourselves, by not deliberately saving some of our creative energy for home, we tend to be listless, negative, boring, and predictable around the house. How rare are those unselfish men who think ahead, maintain right priorities, and keep their families surprised by joy.
Third, the temptation to deliver lectures rather than earning respect by listening and learning.
James 1:19 is worth a look, here: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (NIV). When things get out of hand at home, it’s our normal tendency to reverse the order James suggests. First, we get mad. Then, we shout (lecture No. 38 . . . or is it No. 39?). Last, we listen. When that happens, we get tuned out (I’ve learned that the hard way). Our family members may stop. They may look. But they aren’t listening. They go through a slow burn. It’s a sobering realization, dads, but our home is not an extension of the office . . . and our wife and children are not employees. Maybe we get respect automatically where we work, but at home we must earn it the old-fashioned way. We must work for it.
Fourth, the temptation to demand perfection from those under our roof.
We fathers can be extremely unrealistic, can’t we? It does me good to remember that a .350 batting average is considered tops in the big leagues. That means the professional ballplayer swings and misses well over half the times he’s at the plate. Yet .350 means that he’s still considered the batting champ. In fact, if he keeps that up long enough, he’s Hall of Fame bound. Sure is easy to set our expectations for the wife and kids out of reach, expecting them to bat a thousand. Fathers are commanded not to exasperate their children (Ephesians 6:4), which suggests being an annoyance, an irritation, one who causes grief. An exasperated kid is one who can’t jump quite high enough, thanks to a demanding father who mistakenly thinks good coaching means always raising the bar.
Fifth, the temptation to find intimate fulfillment outside the bonds of monogamy.
Thanks to our ability to rationalize, we men can talk ourselves into the most ridiculous predicaments imaginable. I’ve heard most of them. I’ve also listened to the children of adulterers after the fact, who never understand, who hurt beyond description, who carry scars indefinitely. The charm of seductive passion is incredibly strong, able to blind even the godly. The enticement can be powerful enough to make a man momentarily forget his family as well as ignore the crippling consequences of his sin. That’s why I suggest that dads carry a picture of their brood and look at it often. It’s impossible to fantasize sensual lust while looking at the smiling, trusting faces of your family.
Sixth, the temptation to underestimate the importance of your cultivating your family’s spiritual appetite.
Yes, you cultivate it. Fathers, listen up: Your wife and kids long for you to be their spiritual pacesetter. Children love knowing that their dad loves God, walks with God, and talks about God. Never underestimate your role as the spiritual head. If your wife is running circles around you in this area, that tells me a lot more about you than about her. And don’t think the kids don’t notice, and wonder.
Ready for a challenge? Begin to spend time with God, become a man of prayer, help your family know how deeply you love Christ and desire to honor Him.
Why not start today? C’mon, men . . . it’s one of the greatest gifts any father can give a family.
- See more at: http://www.insight.org/resources/articles/men/for-dads.html?t=parenting#sthash.7oVXUvV0.dpuf