Roots of bitterness block blessings
Scripture reading for August 23rd: Hebrews 12
Key Scriptures: Hebrews 12:12-17 “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God: that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many are defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”
God promises to bless His people as they seek Him and obey His Word. Our enemy, the devil, is always seeking to block the blessings. When we join Christ’s Body, the Church, we are to help our brothers and sisters by encouraging them and helping them overcome their weaknesses. The writer of Hebrews likened these weaknesses as “drooping hands” and “weak knees”. These ‘weaknesses’ and ‘lameness’ of walk are often linked with spiritual strongholds in people’s hearts. Resentment, unforgiveness, and fleshly appetites all are like thorns which grow wild in the garden of our hearts and focus us on earthly desires instead of spiritual blessings. They limit the ‘good works’ we might do with our hands and cause ‘drooping hands.’ They ‘lameness’ in our feet so that our walk with the Lord and our brothers and sisters is affected. Weak knees also limit our ability to pray effectively. Esau is a good example of the bad attitudes we should avoid that could cost our inheritance.
Hebrews 12:25 “See that you do not refuse Him Who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him Who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him Who warns from heaven.”
Faith confession and prayer: Father God, thank You for warning us from heaven through Your Son, Jesus Christ. I received grace from faith in Jesus and healing from my ‘weak knees’ and ‘drooping hands’. Help me and others in Your family to watch and encourage our brothers and sisters to live holy lives and weed out roots of bitterness that hinder our spiritual growth and fruit.
Hebrews 12:10-11 “For they (our parents) disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He (God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Winning a full reward!
Scripture reading for November 27th: Zechariah 12-14; Psalm 94; 2nd John
Key Scriptures: 2nd John 6-9 “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. For everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
Deception is a mark of the devil and his agents in this world. Lying is the antithesis of God the Father and Jesus the Truth and is the native language of the devil. John again mentions those false teachers and calls them ‘antichrist’ as well as deceivers. This word means ‘counterfeit’. They were in the visible church but really not believers in Jesus Christ, Son of God. They advocated false doctrines and were under a deceiving spirit trying to rob believers of their full reward. The true believers could stay safe by abiding in Jesus’ love and showing love for Him by obedience to all His commandments. These were summed up in two: love God and love your brothers and sisters.” This is our “work” of faith, to believe and follow Jesus’ teaching in His love. Watchfulness is needed over our own souls and those of other believers because the ‘antichrist’ is already here.
Psalm 94:12-13 “Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O Lord, and whom You teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.”
Faith confession and prayer: Father, deliver me from the evil one! Fill me each day with Your Word and Spirit, and discipline me if needed. Give me the watchful eyes of an under-shepherd to help brothers and sisters live in Your love and abide in Your Word, receiving their full reward.
Zechariah 13:9 “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon My Name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are My People’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'”
Thankful for a needed rebuke!
Scripture reading for May 11th: Nehemiah 12-13, Esther 1-2
Key Scriptures: Nehemiah 13:17-18 “I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing–desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
Nehemiah had gone back to Persia for a period of time and while he was away, God’s people began to slip away from their obedience to God. They were working and doing business on the Sabbath, in rebellion to God’s law. Nehemiah called them out with a public rebuke! He reminded them of past consequences of such actions and called them to repentance!
Thankful for needed rebukes: Godly leaders reprove and rebuke those who are in known sin and warn the congregation concerning sin’s consequences. “These then are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:15) “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
Given over by God!
Scripture reading for November 18th: Romans 1-3
My wife and I have raised five children and discipline has not been easy. Children are born with a sin-nature and they want what they want, when they want it! Part of the job of parenting is to set boundaries and discipline. Sometimes, having their own way could lead to injury or possibly death. As parents we instruct our children to make wise choices that bring God’s blessing and favor.
God makes Himself known to all men through nature. (Romans 1:20) When men refuse to acknowledge the truth about God as creator of all life they come under God’s wrath. God’s wrath is His holy anger against sin and rebellion. God’s wrath is happening on a continual basis and experienced eternally by those who die in a lost state.
As a result of suppressing the truth that was made clear to them by God through nature, men become darkened in their hearts and their thinking becomes futile and empty. They imagine themselves as the center of all things and think they are wise and intelligent. When man chooses this route, against all evidence to the contrary, God’s response is to give them over to what they desire in their darkened hearts. “Have it your way!” might be another way to say it!
As a result of being given over, men exchange the truth of God for a lie and begin to worship created things rather than the creator. (Romans 1:25) They give themselves to sexual immorality. The sexual immorality sometimes takes the form of homosexuality and lesbian activity. When God withdraws His light from their minds because they ignore His truth, every kind of sin and wickedness comes from their darkened minds! Those under God’s wrath are ‘given over’ not only participate in this wickedness but they encourage others who also practice this same evil! (Romans 1:32)
In our nation God has given many people over to their own lusts and darkness. Much light is available, but God forces no one to follow truth. He wants none to perish and has made provision for all who will choose salvation. The power of the Gospel message offers righteousness by faith to all who will believe! (Romans 1:16-17) Lord, have mercy on our nation!
Sin is deadly!
Scripture reading for January27: Exodus 21-24
Is there any such thing as a “harmless sin”? We sometimes laugh when our young children defiantly disobey. When our adopted daughters were first released from the orphanage to come with us, they were so cute! Both my wife and I and the girls had a short time of mutual admiration. But on one of our first outings, we were waiting to cross the street and cars were speeding by. One of them (name withheld to protect the innocent!) stuck her foot out towards the street and looked up mischievously to see what we might do! Mary and I had a good laugh but realized that we had a job ahead of us and had a late start!
Sin entered mankind through Eve’s deception by the serpent and through the disobedience of Adam. God’s commands aren’t suggestions. What He says will happen and He has the authority and power to bring it to pass. Sin has consequences. We can choose to sin, but we get the consequences for free! The law that God gave Moses on the mountain included Exodus 21-24. These were practical explanations of the ten commands that helped work out how these laws would play out in the community of Israel. A holy God lived in their midst. He demanded that the people He lived with would be holy too! (1st Peter 1:15-16)
Some of the laws and their that struck me as I read this passage remind me of the “deadliness” of sin! In Exodus 21:15 and 17, the penalty for attacking father or mother or even cursing them was death. If a man owned a bull that was known to gore others and he did not restrain this animal and a person was killed, the bull and the owner would die! (Exodus 21:28-29) A sorceress must be put to death! (Exodus 22:18) Anyone having sexual relations with an animal must die! (Exodus 22:19) Another law in Exodus 22:22-23 was shocking to me; I had never remembered reading that one who takes advantage of an orphan or a widow would die if that orphan or widow cried out to the Lord! God gets angry when we mess with those who are hurting! He is compassionate and protective! (Exodus 22:26-27)
God is compassionate and loves us enough to confront sin. He knows it’s deadly–it cost Him the life of His Firstborn Son! We need to be serious when it comes to sin. In our children, it is not just funny. It will be deadly if not properly addressed. As parents, we need to love our children enough to discipline them and teach them that sin is nothing to mess with. May the Lord continue to love us enough to discipline us so that sin is not our downfall!
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good that we might share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10