[Small Group] Spiritual Training

Last Night’s Gathering – You are a blessing to us

Y’all are such a blessing to me and my family. A big thank you to those who made it in person and to those who were with us in spirit even if not in body.

This Week – Spiritual Training

This week we are going to do something different. I’m very excited about this and encourage you to slide anything else to the side and be sure not to miss this particular week’s prep and especially not miss the gathering next week.

We’ll call this week “spiritual training”. It will be a focused type of kindling/arousing/awakening the spiritual fire inside.

This week, instead of focusing on the Wiersbe guide/workbook questions, I want us to read the selection of scripture from lesson 3 (Psalms 44-47) but not go into the questions in the study guide.



Pray for the Lord to reveal His wisdom to your heart and spirit, not for you to just acquire knowledge in your mind. And pray that you won’t doubt and that it won’t be stolen away. Trust Him. He is faithful and true.

Read through Psalm 44 once, all the way through.

Then ask yourself the following questions:

1) Who?

2) When/where?

3) How?(What?)

4) Why?

NOTE: With the first three, we are trying to intentionally and consciously paint a picture in our minds (or walk out a play or movie in our minds) that activates our senses and draws us in like a good movie does. This is a creative exercise for our minds, like a child’s faithful “make believe” game, not just a factual/academic exercise.

Who are the people or groups of people involved in this (author, spoken of, spoken to, playing a part in it, etc)?

What is the background/stage/ environment for this text? What would it have looked like, felt like, smelled like, sounded like or even tasted like? If you were going to make a video to recreate this Psalm, how would you set up the stage for the actors?

Can you summarize and picture what happened and the sequence of events? If you were writing out a script and recreating this as a child would in a play or game, what is the general order of events?

NOTE: Now we have stepped through the above, we will step past “just the facts” and surface level written letter “meaning” of the passage and move on to application.

The Why?

“The why inside them”
What is an underlying message or theme the people “inside the story” or the author would have been learning or teaching through this passage?

“The why through Christ”
How does knowing what we know today about the life and teachings of Christ reveal something new or additional or parallel to this passage? Is there a way that we can understand or find parallels in this passage?

“The why inside me”
If we are truly Christians at heart and not just claimed by name, we have the spirit of Christ in us. Knowing this about ourselves and knowing our identity in Christ, what does this teach us, or stir up in us, or convict us to repent of?

NOTE: This is a method of study that I use with my daughter as we read through the Bible together, and it is one of the primary and most profitable ways I have found to approach studying scripture in a way that makes it real, makes it memorable, and makes it effectively applicable for my day to day life.

This approach takes time that is still, quiet, and focused on the Word of God. I know that many of us have busy lives where God may only have had access to our left overs in the past. This is not me judging you or condemning you, I’m just speaking the truth about many times in our lives when we have let other things take priority over God and we have missed out on blessings and growth and kingdom opportunities as a result. I promise that this approach will bear riches for you of you try it. And quality is king here, not quantity. It would be better to dive into this fully committed to the method and to seeing just one passage “come alive” to you — rather than rushing through it like a last minute homework assignment so you can say to yourself that you finished all four Psalms before time to turn in your work.

If you feel stuck or stumped, walk away from the book and spend time praising the Lord for the wisdom you know He is planting in your heart through time in His Word, even if you can’t yet see the fruit of it in your mind, etc.

Rinse and repeat. If you now know Psalm 44 intimately and personally and you are hungry for more, move on to the next one.

NOTE: My goal is to record a video of me walking through this process with one of the Psalms for this week so you can see an example of this played out. Hopefully I can share that in the next day or so.

Next Week’s Gathering – Outpouring

I would also like to build on this “spiritual training” when we gather next week by having a short study followed by a time of “soaking” where we work those spiritual muscles we have been exercising and we allow the spiritual gifts to be active and the Lord speak to us and through us even more clearly. You can come with an expectation to see the Spirit of the Lord — “breathing life into His people”, and the “fount of living waters flowing out of our bellies”. You do not want to miss this gathering.

Undeserved Treasure

Be Good Husbands


My wife, my bride,
Sweeter today than the day we wed,
More patient with my faults now than when blinded by attraction,
A more beautiful and radiant doe now than when masked by her youth,
Demonstrating that gentle and quiet spirit that comes from the Lord.
She trusts in the Lord and she listens to and knows the heart of my words,
She and I are warring on the battlefield but not against one another,
Because we are one, standing united against that enemy that hates us,
We are one in Christ as she is not my adversary but is my helpmate,
We are one in truth as she is my spotless blameless treasure washed by the Word of God,
We are one in love.
We are one.
Not to be separated,
for we are not just joined by vows,
but by the Lord God Almighty Himself.
The enemy shall not overcome,
The enemy shall not make camp in this, the Lord’s territory.
The enemy has been overcome,
For the enemy met with resistance
And did not divide and conquer
But is revealed conquered
By the Blood of the Lamb
And by our testimony
That we love,
Yes we love!
Not me,
But We
And He.

We are taught
We are led
We are called
We are sent
by God
with God

1 Peter 3:7

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Proverbs 18:22

22 The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,

    and he receives favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 19:14

14 Fathers can give their sons an inheritance of houses and wealth,

    but only the Lord can give an understanding wife.

Mark 10:7-9

7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

I wonder how often we look at our wives as “undeserved treasure” instead of looking for what we could find fault in (and tear down in our own minds) about this woman who is united with us as one?

Or maybe some of us haven’t reached that point where we actually are “united into one” with our wives?

Maybe we’re trying to be Clemson on one side of the field while they are trying to be Carolina – each battling for title of lord within the battleground of our own households?

Maybe we’ve been fooled into forgetting about the real enemy and the division that can be sown so that we refuse to acknowledge the only one that can truly be Lord and bring unity in our households?

Husbands, have we been foolish in thinking that she must be understandable before you can be understanding towards her? Have we expected her to come and speak with us like a man, or like a common neighbor — or even as someone bringing their case into our courtroom to be considered and judged in the courts of reason? How foolish, when she should be able to enter her emotional pleas to us expecting grace and mercy and love. Where is your compassion, you hard of heart? Doesn’t an outpouring of love, a going forth of this gospel, start at home? Are we not called to love her like Christ loves the church?

Do not have her begging for crumbs of love at the table of your marriage – she is no dog! She is part of you. She is your treasure to be second only to Christ himself in your heart! Above your job, above your career, above your children, above your friends, above your hobbies – she is one with you if you are indeed one in Christ.

Or is that the root of the issue? Have you forgotten who you are without Christ? Have you forgotten the wretched state from which He has called and delivered you so that you think so much of yourself that you can look down upon the very one you are sent to be Christ to in your household?

Repent, husbands. Honor her today. Not with platitudes and flowers, but with a willingness to hear her.

Ask her how she feels about the state of your relationship. And when she answers, do not get offended. Do not make excuses. Do not justify your own perspective. Do not turn away from these words that reveal hurts to your body that you had been ignoring – because hurts to her are hurts to you – if indeed you are one. Seek understanding. Find unity. Stir up love.

A Clampett/Ballinger Thanksgiving

Jed Clampett is a pretty good study on thankfulness where the blessings don’t become his identity or his master. Where the manipulative banker is the one who needs teaching, and learns time after time from the simple and humble man who has received unmerited favor and blessings beyond measure that seem only an afterthought not a goal and purpose. Jed didn’t earn that bubbling fount of blessing by hard work, and neither can Mr. Drysdale relieve him of it though his many schemes. Because Jed doesn’t find his identity, purpose, or value in the same type of measuring stick — Jed is just living each day in awe of this undeserved fortune.

What joy we find resting in the Lord!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord ;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord , and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalms 34:1‭-‬8 ESV

Lord, burn away those old Drysdale tendencies and remind us of that sweet Clampett heart.

Yes Sur

The word render means to “provide or give”.

This reminds me of a few verses from the Bible:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33‭-‬34 ESV

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7‭-‬11 ESV

“Render, Oh God!”

Sometimes we find ourselves with a wrong mindset about our relationship to God and His to us, even in our time of great need. When we want God to “render” for us through our requests “our will to be granted in heaven” this is not from a right mind or a right heart. See, He is master and Lord and He makes the decrees and commands, not us.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:3 ESV

“The render is freed by the sur”

The prefix sur means “over and above”.

See, when we address that prefix “sur” and put God “over and above” our lives — when we truly want “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, it is then that the “surrender” takes place that opens the floodgates of heaven.

Many would take just this one bold verse in Malachi 3:10 with hopes to use it for their own gain and prosperity, as if they could “bind God by His promise for their own profit” — but let’s see the whole of its context. God is not the means by which men would manipulate a “spiritual” financial transaction for the increase of their own will and purposes and power and honor to be increased upon this world, No!

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts. “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord . But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'” Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Malachi 3:10‭-‬18 ESV

Master, Lord, these words when speaking of God and not self — are either heard in the ears of the wise as beautiful to you — or they are beasts as hatred and condemnation in the deaf, blind, fools who inhabit the earth.

The call is not to make ourselves gods and to make God our servant, but to truly lie down in surrender and find ourselves truly sons of God. Because we are either surrendered sons of God or you are sons of another father.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Matthew 6:24 ESV


You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:4‭-‬10 ESV

This I will RENDER unto the Lord – my praise, for He has heard my prayer and granted me a surrendered heart:

I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalms 56:12‭-‬13 ESV

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord , I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord , I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord . I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord , in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord !
Psalms 116:12‭-‬19 ESV

Letter to a friend

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth. I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God. Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.

I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you. Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.
3 John 1:2‭-‬15 NLT

This letter from John to Gaius is quite loving, quite personal, and quite revealing.

John starts out with a loving compliment and encouragement. He equates following Jesus (“following the truth”) to faithfulness and living according to the truth — an abiding faith that is actively impacting his friend’s daily life.

He then commended his friend for helping strangers who are traveling teachers. He mentions not only that we should support them while they are with us, but to partner with them so they can continue to travel and teach. How many traveling teachers have you or I even encountered? And how many have we helped? We might wonder, how do we know if they are true or false, tricksters or truth bearers?

John contrasts these traveling teachers (unknown missionary evangelists presumably) who are continually trusting God and strangers (humbling themselves), with a man who “lives to be the leader” (a recognizable, charismatic, authoritative kingdom builder presumably) that refuses fellowship (proud and exclusionary).

Don’t the worldly gravitate towards building up one type of leader for themselves, while those truly trusting in God, have a relationship with their unseen but well recognized teacher and don’t need to call anyone teacher (Matthew .

I heard Paul Washer preach on a similar subject some time ago ( link here ), and it still rings true — not just about mega-church celebrities on TV that don’t preach the whole counsel of the Word of God, but those in many grand gatherings within your very own towns!

But even knowing this, John encourages his friend not to let this influence him. He doesn’t tell his friend to be so offended that he makes out his life’s testimony to speak against this false teacher? No, John says,

Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

I’ve also seem many who are so distracted and offended by others that their teaching gets stuck in the mud of only standing with a pointed finger talking about others rather than hearing the warnings for themselves and following and doing only what is good not evil. We do not return evil for evil, we do good. Yes, we must remember that as soon as we find our message turning outward, it may be a distraction attempting to hide what needs to be revealed about ourselves not about another.

And Paul mentions that there are more intimate and personal things that He has to share with his friend that are better said in person. I wonder if there is a conversation that would better be had between you and I, friend, face to face? Not far away from each other, but close like friends? Is there something troubling you? Is there a need that needs meet as you travel proclaiming this gospel? Or maybe I’m the traveling teacher and you want to partner with me? Maybe we can walk together for a season and reach many with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

As Paul said to his friend,

I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. Peace be with you.

And to the enemies of Christ,

When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

Out of Gas

First off, my wife is amazing.

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:10‭-‬12 NLT

My savior Jesus Christ revealed Himself yet again through my loving wife, who got to be my roadside savior this morning!


Remember how in my post yesterday (see here), I mentioned that my car was on empty?

Well guess what happens when you don’t do something about it?

What a lesson about life, when you find yourself so busy running from one place to the other that you forget to refill your own tank.

Yesterday, I was quick to pull over when I thought someone needed help, but I wasn’t so quick to take care of the items I needed to tend to. I didn’t stop and get gas, because I was in a hurry and I forgot.

So now, I’m the one sitting on the side of the road myself, in need of help myself. How often had this same thing happened in different ways?

How many times has a pastor who counsels others about their marriages found that he’s not pouring into His own wife and kids like he should?

How many times have we sat and listened to a friend and tried to help them with what we thought we heard in their words, thinking we had advice for them instead of hearing the conviction that was meant for us?

How many times have we been blind guides, acting as if we are able to lead the blind ourselves, instead of relying on and giving all credit to Christ (who lives in us as we stand in awe that He would use even us).


Last night, Mia and I set a goal for this day that wee would be an extra special blessing to someone in a way that isn’t just part of our normal day. We wanted to brighten up someone’s day intentionally just for the purpose of seeing their smile, their joy, their encouragement. But I started out my day having to interrupt my wonderful wife’s morning with the burdensome task of bringing me has on the side of the interstate. And I sit here in a powerless car that must wait for the source of its power to be refilled.

My prayer isn’t that Mia and I strive today and do some good works under our own power so that we might brag to each other tonight about our filthy rags, no. But my prayer is that God would reveal Himself to someone today through the loving kindness He has poured out in us.

Lord, help us to remember that we are just as reading upon your grace and mercy and live and help as the next. And remind us that much business is not necessarily greatly used. And that being a blessing is sometimes giving someone else an opportunity to be a blessing and to receive pour praise and honor for being an unexpected blessing, especially when it costs them something. Remind us to keep our own tank filled. Remind is to be grateful to those willing to pour into us, and help us to carry your blessing and pour it out in love. Amen.

Bodies and Cars and Love by the Wayside

Ever been driving on a cold, rainy morning — and see a body off the side of the road, face down in the grass, not moving?

I did this morning.


And even as I continued by and watched in my rear view mirror, I knew what I had to do. Even though my fuel gauge was on empty, even though I was going to be late for work, even though my phone was dead and I had no way of calling 911 — so many reasons to let someone else handle it — but I knew that I had to go back.

As I turned the car around and headed back, I wondered to myself, “What am I even going to do if this guy is dead and not just passed out?”

But imagine my surprise when he was surprised by my approach and my loud shout of, “Is everything okay?” Imagine my surprise when what I thought was either a dead body or a passed out drunk — responded alert and quite as much surprised by my unexpected presence in his morning, as I was about his presence in mine.

I then realized that he had been laying on his face, motionless with his right arm (that I thought was beneath him) actually down some type of hole or pipe and he was doing some type of utility work with his hand deep in the ground.

“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure if everything was okay,” I stammered as I stopped short and made it clear to him that I wasn’t approaching as a threat but as a concerned neighbor.

I don’t know if he laughed or exactly what he said, but we both realized the humor of each other’s side of the situation for a moment — we had both for that split moment looked at the situation from how the other was seeing it — him seeing a guy who thought he was about to deal with a body on the side of the road — and me seeing a guy just trying to start his dirty morning work to have a stranger come up from behind and scare him.

I said, “God bless” and headed back on my way to work.

But it got me thinking — how many times do we see metaphorical “dead or hurt bodies along the ditches of this life through which we are walking” and choose to do nothing about it?

And how many times might we think that we’re about to help someone who is in trouble to realize that they are just fine and don’t actually need our help?

Do we even stop to find out?

I’m not saying that to glorify the fact that I stopped this time, because there are many times that not only did I not stop to help my brother or sister in need, I didn’t really care about them because “I had my own things to worry about.”

Let’s look at it from a different angle too…

I spent time with a friend who drives a wrecker early, early this morning for the second Thursday morning in a row where he was picking up a car from the side of the road. Last week it was a vehicle that had flipped and rolled over multiple times. This week it was a vehicle that had been stolen and recovered by the police. In the first case, the occupants of the car wanted and needed help. The occupant of the car this time needed help but definitely didn’t want the help he found by way of the back seat of a police car.

But even though we might see the parallels and connections up to this point, I want to bring out something that Nickey (that’s my friend who drives the wrecker) mentioned while we were riding in that roll back wrecker early this morning.

He said, “Hop, you know how some folks are quick to hug and tell each other they love each other?”

“Yes,” I replied.

He said, “I don’t do that, because I think that the English language does a disservice to that word love. There is only one word for ‘love’ in English, but in Hebrew and Greek and many other languages they have different words to describe the actual thing they are talking about.”

“I understand what you’re saying. People can say ‘love’ and mean all kinds of things in English — passion, intimacy, deep brotherly love, superficial love, like, lust — all kinds of things,” I replied.

He continued, “If I ask you to help me with something and you tell me that you’re too busy, what are you really saying?”

I understood his line of questioning immediately. I answered, “I’m saying that I care more about what I have planned or want to do.”

“And that speaks to what you truly love, right?” Nickey prompted and then quickly mentioned, “You remember when I asked you a few weeks ago about us getting together with our wives for dinner sometime?”

Boom! Bomb dropped in love. Correction accepted. I love this man, this friend, this brother.

Here I thought we were having a Luke 10:25-37, Parable of the Good Samaritan, conversation. And we were passing through that “town” of love, but the “street address” that Nickey was looking for as we rode along in that flatbed wrecker together was John 13:35.

I spoke with my wife this morning. We’ll be doing dinner with Nickey and his wife next week.


John 13:34-35 (NLT)

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


Luke 10:25-37 (NLT)

The Most Important Commandment

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[c] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

His Plan

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.
Isaiah 14:24 NLT

Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.
Ecclesiastes 6:10 NLT

Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.
Isaiah 46:9‭-‬10 NLT

The Lord does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths.
Psalms 135:6 NLT

All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’
Daniel 4:35 NLT

The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.
Proverbs 16:4 NLT

Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good?
Lamentations 3:37‭-‬38 NLT

I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord , am the one who does these things.
Isaiah 45:7 NLT

Look now; I myself am he! There is no other god but me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand!
Deuteronomy 32:39 NLT

But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
Romans 9:11‭-‬23 NLT

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Ephesians 1:4‭-‬5 NLT

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
Romans 8:29‭-‬30 NLT

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
Ephesians 1:11 NLT

For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.
John 6:44 NLT

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:9 NLT

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:8‭-‬10 NLT

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38‭-‬39 NLT

Comparison and Division

The Word of God is the source of power, not our filthy rags.

Comparing your filthy rags to mine or someone else’s is not only useless for righteousness (because we should only compare ourselves to Christ and be humbled), but it is not a profitable example we want to set for others to follow (comparison, division, outwardly pointed fingers vs self examination, repentance, Christ dependence).

Jesus knew His audience and spoke to their needs, not “about others”. The arrows were pointed at those listener’s hearts and not at the world, and not at those not in attendance to defend themselves.

He didn’t spend His time standing around talking to the people about the Pharisees (or “other people’s sins”) and condemning those not in attendance. He didn’t teach comfort where I am because I can look out and see the errors of others. No!

Outward facing messages are pridefully self serving and self egrandizing instead of humble testimonies of self examination and repentance, and they can be founded upon a foolish, prideful, works based perspective of “we’re doing so much better than them” perspective instead of a humble, “I’m the chemist of sinners” perspective.

When the Pharisees were specifically there and were his audience, he addressed it by speaking what the Pharisees needed to hear, but He didn’t let that distract from the message that mattered when his listeners were the public.

I’ve seen men with good intentions but a lack of understanding about who their audience is — teach rebellious people to hate authority because it tickles their ears — just as often as I’ve heard others teach ceremonial people to stay the course and not stop by the wayside because it tickles their ears as well.

And both are in error because the message is setting people’s eyes upon others instead of upon themselves.

I say these things, because I have seen the error in my own ways in this area.

And because I have been willing to see it in myself and repent, I can clearly see it in others to pray for them and speak to them individually about my testimony as a friend, in hopes of gently bringing them to repentance. I don’t share because I’ve ignored self application in preference for using it as a sword of division and war against my brother.

This Morning’s Praise

Our family devotional this morning is from 1 Thessalonians 3 and is a great encouragement and praise in response to last night’s “personal lament psalm” (click here to read that post) that was shared as part of our small group Wiersbe study’s homework on Psalm 3. When we cry out to the Lord with our troubles and trust in Him for a good night’s rest, we can praise Him in the morning, because He answers us.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
2 Thessalonians 3:6‭-‬15 ESV