Wednesday, May 30, 2012


An often used and misused word among Christians in our society is the word -- "balance".

We tend to use it when God's Word doesn't line up with the message that we want to accept or communicate to others. When we come across a particularly troubling statement in Scripture we quickly look for another to 'counteract' that which we find unpalatable.  Often times we treat the severity of God's Word and commands in certain parts of scripture as if they were acid that needs to be neutralized by another scripture which appears to be on the other end of the spectrum of what we deem to be acceptable. When we treat God's Word in such a manner we end up with a truly watered down understanding of Scripture that is of benefit to no one.
Quite often we treat the Old Testament in such a way. Many Christians are so uncomfortable with the Old Testament that any time they come across a particularly tough passage they immediately look for the New Testament "alternative".  They find the God of the Old Testament to be too acidic and believe that the New Testament brings "balance" to the equation.  The problem, of course, with this way of thinking is that it is unscriptural. Christ did not come to counteract what God had done throughout the history of the Old Testament. He came to fulfill it! He did not come to bring "balance".  He was the natural outflow of what God had been doing all along. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same. There was no evolution in the thinking of God from Genesis 1 to Matthew 1. There was no Old Testament character flaw that the Almighty had to neutralize through the sacrifice of His son. The sooner that we stop looking for "balance" in Scripture the better off we will be.

This phenomenon of searching for "balance" is never more obvious than when we examine the Biblical (notice: I did not say Old Testament) way that God deals with the wicked. In Psalm 139 and numerous other places throughout scripture the very act of praying that God would slay the wicked goes hand in hand with a song of worship. It is as if the Psalmist is rooting for the Almighty in His cosmic battle against evil. Yet, when we read passages such as Psalm 139 or Psalm 5:4-5 which states, "You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong;" we immediately rush to the defense of God by running to the New Testament cupboard in search for an antidote in order to bring "balance" to the situation. After all, we don't want God to be seen as someone that hates people. The only problem with this, of course, is that the Bible says that He indeed does hate the wicked. Further compounding the problem is that churches that "hate the wicked" are praised for doing so in the New Testament! The Church at Ephesus received the following praise from the Lord Himself, "You have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitians, which I also hate" (Revelation 2:6). What makes us most uncomfortable about this passage in Revelation 2:6 is that the people are named. There is no doubt that when the small congregation at Ephesus received this Word from God that they knew exactly which people in the community that the Lord was talking about!

More than likely you are crying out for "balance" after reading the above paragraph and have the antidote in your hand to the 'acidic' and, what you feel to be, 'destructive' nature of a gospel that would proclaim hatred toward anyone. You proudly hold up the vial of Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." You rejoice in that you have found the "balance" in Scripture. Have you? Does Matthew 5 tell you to be in love with God's enemies or yours?  Is it not possible that in our search for "balance" that we undermine what God is trying to teach us. I certainly don't want to be rooting for God's enemies. I want God's enemies to be defeated. Whether or not God wants who I perceive to be my enemies to be defeated or not is another story. The Psalmist in Psalm 139 seems to realize this and immediately after praying that God would slay the wicked turns to an examination of his own heart to make sure that he is not among them!

This article is a call for the Church to stop searching for "balance" and to instead be in search of "fulfillment" in Scripture. Christ did not come to bring "balance" or to "do away with" the Old Testament , not in the very least! He came as a natural outgrowth of it. After all, He was the seed that was promised from the very beginning! The love of God does not balance out the wrath of God any more than His death balances out my sin. If the death of Christ were to be placed on a balance with my sin the scales would not be in balance! The value of His death far outweighs my sin! I can never repay Him! An eternity offering praise will not be enough!

Does God loving the world so much that He gave His only Son bring "balance" to Him "hating the wicked".  By no means! If it did then the wicked would dwell in His presence whether they repented of their sin or not. Nor can we say, as we often do, "God loves the sin, but hates the sinner." The truth of the matter is that He hates both sin and the unrepentant sinner and sees no difference between the two. Sin will never dwell in His presence. In the New Testament deaths of Ananias and Sapphira it was not their sin that God killed; it was Ananias and Sapphira. If the Bible were wanting us to find "balance" between the yin and the yang or "the force" and "the dark side" then we would arrive at the conclusion that Ananias and Sapphira made heaven. After all, God's love would have been equal to His judgment and they would have made it without a debt to pay.

When we come across passages that are tough to swallow we must avoid looking for an antidote. Instead we must take the medicine and realize that the Heavenly Father means what His Word says. Failure to do otherwise will neutralize the power of the gospel to make a difference in our fallen world.  His love does not sit on the opposite end of the scale from His wrath. Our sin sets on the opposite end! His wrath does not neutralize His love -- it amplifies it! His love does not neutralize His wrath -- it justifies it! God help your church to avoid the pitfalls of playing a balancing act with your Word and may we always weigh it with our sin placed on the opposite end of the scale.

Search The Scriptures -- Revelation 1:1 - 3:13

Study 1 – Revelation 1:1-8

  1. This Revelation was given to Jesus, but originated with the Father. It came to John by way of an angel and John was now relaying that message to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Those that read the words of the prophecy of Revelation and take those words to heart are promised a blessing. No other book in scripture has such an overt promise attached to it.

  2. In this short passage Jesus is referred to as: faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of earth, the one who was pierced, the Alpha and Omega, the eternal and everlasting one, and the Almighty! This awesome Christ is said to “love us and to have freed us in order to make us priests in His eternal kingdom.

Study 2 – Revelation 1:9-20

  1. Being a part of the kingdom of God means that we can expect suffering and a struggle that will require endurance on our part. Knowing such effort will be required the Christian must serve the Lord with patience.

  2. In the vision Christ is:
    Robed – Royal
    White Haired – Wisdom
    Eyes blazing as fire – All seeing
    Feet like bronze – Unmovable
    Voice like mighty waters – All Powerful
    A sword protruding from His mouth – Able to judge according to His mighty Word.
    Face shining with brilliance – Divine

  3. Concerning Himself, Christ claims to be:
    The First and The Last
    The Living One that was once dead
    The One that holds the keys to death and the grave

Study 3 – Revelation 2:1-7

  1. Ephesus was praised for:
    Their hard work
    Their perseverance
    Their intolerance of the wicked
    Their willingness to endure hardship

  2. Proof that their love had declined was the fact that those things that they had first done in their pursuit of the Lord had been forgotten. The remedy was to repent and to return to those things that they had done at first.

  3. The Church hears the voice of the Lord through the study of scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will not say anything that the scripture has not already revealed and will illuminate those thing in God’s Word that have remained hidden.

Study 4 – Revelation 2:8-17

  1. The Church in Smyrna had already undergone tremendous difficulty and was headed for even greater persecution. While they were very impoverished by the standards of this world they had laid up for themselves rich treasures in heaven through their faithful service. They would overcome the trials of the world by remaining faithful in spite of what the world would do to them.

  2. Christ will not stand for compromise within His church. The Church in America needs to heed the words spoken to Pergamum as we have thrown open wide the door to immorality within our midst.

Study 5 – Revelation 2:18-29

  1. The two items mentioned again concerning the vision of Christ are His eyes of blazing fire and His feet of bronze symbolizing that He sees all and that He is unmovable in His decrees and His judgments. Knowing that we hide nothing from Him and that His judgments are unchangeable we must guard ourselves against sin. Though those in the church itself may compromise we must remain true to His commands.

  2. Failure to exercise church discipline and failure to judge the prophetess according to God’s Word led to horrific compromise. Those that had not yet compromised were told to hold firm to their position no matter what.

Study 6 – Revelation 3:1-13

  1. The Christians at Sardis appeared alive outwardly, but in reality were dead and needed to “wake up” and  “strengthen” that which remained alive within them. They had not followed through on their commitments to the Lord. Once again, repentance was the key to gaining the victory.

  2. Perseverance is probably the most important characteristic needed within the Church. We are promised certain victory through the death and resurrection of our Lord. We merely need to hold on until the end. Holding on until the very end will guarantee us a permanent place in His kingdom.

Psalm 140 - 150

Study 113 – Psalm 140 and 141

1.      The enemies of the psalmist are described as wicked men of violence that spend all of their time setting traps for the unsuspecting. The psalmist asks not only to be rescued from his enemies, but he also asks the Lord for their complete destruction.

2.      In Psalm 141 the psalmists realizes that many times we are our own greatest enemy. For this reason he asks the Lord to guard his speech and his heart. He also gives thanks for other men that God places into his life in order to rebuke him and to keep him from straying from the way of righteousness.

3.      The best way to guard the tongue is to be slow to use it! The less we say, the less likely we will say something that we will regret.

Study 114 – Psalm 142 and 143

1.      David feels alone and overwhelmed. In response he pours out his complaint to God. He asks the Lord to be His refuge. He expect the Lord to answer his prayer and for others to see the goodness of God on his behalf and to gather around him so that they may praise the Lord together.

2.      The Lord is the psalmists only hope and the psalmist makes clear that he believes that the Lord will intervene on his behalf so that the name of the Lord will be uplifted. It is because of the Lord’s name, righteousness, and unfailing love that the psalmist is able to have such hope.

Study 115 – Psalm 144

1.      In God’s sight were are like breath and fleeting shadows. We are all but meaningless when we consider His greatness. Yet, we can call upon an Almighty God to part heaven and come to our rescue.

2.      Every leader must understand their own insignificance. Without the help of the Lord we are powerless. With His help we can turn others toward Him. The responsibility of the Christian leader is to turn the hearts of men away from themselves and toward the Lord.

Study 116 – Psalm 145

1.      In this psalm the following characteristics of God are mentioned:
Great deeds; Abundant Goodness; Grace; Compassion; Slow to Anger; Rich in Love; Good to All; Faithful in Keeping Promises; Upholds the Fallen; Lifts up those that are oppressed; Satisfied Desires; Watches over those who love Him.
Such characteristics should produce praise upon the recipients and cause them to pass that attitude of praise from generation to generation.

2.      The Lord sends the rain upon both the righteous and the unrighteous. He truly meets the needs of all of His creation. For those that follow His commands He offers even further blessing by granting the desires of their hearts.

Study 117 – Psalm 146

1.      Mankind is incapable of producing anything that will last. What God creates will last forever! He is everlasting!

2.      The Lord has heard the cry of Israel in Egypt and came to rescue them and to bring them into a Promised Land.

3.      In Jesus own words, “It is the sick that need a physician” or “I have come to call sinners.”

Study 118 – Psalm 147

1.      The Lord cares for: Individuals; Creation; and Nations. He is concerned with the oppressed individuals. He is concerned for providing for the needs of the planet and all of the creatures that inhabit it. He will protect and secure those nations that serve Him.

2.      We can trust and praise the Lord because His promises are true. The more we test the promises of God the more often we will find them to be valid and the greater will be our praise.

Study 119 – Psalm 148 – 150

1.      All of creation from the angels in the highest heaven to the lowliest creature on earth, whether it is organic or inorganic is created to give the Lord praise! Likewise, everything that man creates should be something that can bring praise unto the Lord!

2.      “The Lord takes delight in his people . . .” Psalm 149:4. As His people dwell on that truth they can be assured that God will help them to defeat their enemies. We are to be a people that “Praise God with our mouths and have a double-edged sword in our hands . . .” Psalm 149:6.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Search The Scriptures -- Psalm 139

Study 112 – Psalm 139

1.      God knows our thoughts before we have them; our words before we speak them and our plans before we make them. He is ever present, all knowing, and all powerful.

2.   Since the Lord already knows full well our thoughts and the attitudes of our heart there is no point in acting as if they do not exist. Instead we need to ask that the Lord reveal to us those things that stand in the way of our relationship with Him. God truly wants to bless us and the best way for that to happen is by allowing Him to reveal to us the obstacles in our life that stand in His way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Search The Scriptures -- Daniel 8 - 12

Study 9 – Daniel 8

  1. In their time of prosperity both the ram and the goat were unstoppable by anyone else and grew in power, but were not invincible.

  2. The vision affected Daniel to a great degree because he struggled to understand its meaning. His lack of being able to understand was probably due to the fact that the vision concerned things that were so far into the future that he had no reference point for understanding the vision.

Study 10 – Daniel 9:1-19

  1. The reading of scripture and the understanding that Israel was being punished because of her disobedience led Daniel to fast and pray. When we pray scripture we are far more likely to pray in accordance with God’s Will.

  2. Daniel prays based on the reality of God’s Word. He prays in such a way that God will be glorified. He specifically states, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” – 9:18.

Study 11 – Daniel 9:20-27

  1. The six events of 9:24: to finish transgression; to put an end to sin; to atone for wickedness; to bring in everlasting righteousness; to seal up vision and prophecy; and to anoint the most holy.

  2. At the end of the second period the temple was to be destroyed. This happened in A.D. 70.

  3. Some would say that the events of verse 26 only have partial fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem. I see no reason to think that there needs to be an undefined space of time between the 69 ‘sevens’ and the last ‘seven.’ I find this to merely be convenient for dispensationalists that want to be able to place end time events on convenient charts.

Study 12 – Daniel 10:1 – 11:1

  1. The people that were returning to rebuild Jerusalem were coming under attack from those surrounding them. Daniel was  fasting on their behalf and on behalf of the tremendous uncertainty that was in the minds of many Israelites.

  2. We need to be much more engaged in prayer than we are. We need to add fasting, prayer, and sacrifice into the mix if we are to truly pray in accordance with God’s will.

  3. The Lord does not leave us powerless to wage spiritual battles. He longs to come to our aid! He has overcome the world!

Study 13 – Daniel 11:2-20

  1. This prophecy told so well in advance of its happening would prove to remind the nation of Israel that everything is under God’s control and that when He states something that it will happen without fail. This would bring great comfort concerning His blessings, and great concern when it came to His judgments for disobedience.

  2. “Doing as we please” rather than doing as “He pleases” is a recipe for long-term disaster. The sooner we can learn to say, “Not my will, but thy will be done,” the better off we will be.

Study 14 – Daniel 11:21 – 12:13

  1. The Lord will ultimately do as “He pleases” with every man and every kingdom that does as what they please! God will fulfill His purpose and He will use even the rebellious and the disobedient in order to achieve His ends.

  2. Those that will be glorified are those who are wise and obey the will of the Lord. Those that are put to shame are those that “do as they please.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May The Fourth Be With You

Before Indianapolis built Lucas Oil Stadium for the Indianapolis Colts they played in the RCA Dome or as most people in Indiana referred to the stadium, until the day that it was imploded, ‘The Hoosier Dome’. Teams throughout the NFL dreaded coming to play in Indy because the RCA Dome was loud! The Colts prided themselves on having the greatest ‘12th man on the field’ in the NFL. ‘The 12th man on the field’ and the ‘6th man on the court’ are often credited with helping take teams to the next level of professional sports.

The Colts have a fantastic new stadium in Lucas Oil! It’s huge! It’s not very noisy. The crowd gets lost in the cavernous space. The Colts came in last place.

Now they are depending on ‘Luck’. Literally! His name is Andrew Luck to be precise. The fact of the matter is that all of the Luck in the world is meaningless if he doesn’t have the support of ‘the 12th man on the field.'

This discussion of football stadiums and ‘the 12th man on the field’ of course brings me to Daniel! Not the story of the lions’ den. They have a new stadium too by the way – the Lions of Detroit that is. It’s called Ford field and hopefully it will help the Lions because nothing else ever has; and once again this year, they will not have Luck on their side.

Let’s get back to Daniel who by the way did not live in Detroit, but lived in Babylon. He was forced to move there as a child; perhaps in much the same way that you would have to take somebody kicking and screaming to Detroit today. I have been taking a journey through Daniel this past week and have taken tremendous comfort in what most people only think of as a children’s story.  The story that grabbed my attention in such a profound way this week has nothing to do with Daniel or lions. It has everything to do with heat, but not the NBA team. It does, however, have something to do with Shaq – not O’Neal. This guy’s name was MeShaq. There were a couple of other guys that hung out with MeShaq that were given rather odd names as well by their new owner the King of Babylon, who picked them up during a scouting trip in Israel. Their names were Shadrach and Abednego. These three guys with the exquisite names had even more exquisite faith!

Shadrach, MeShaq, and Abednego were non-conformist of the first order! Their new owner had issued a decree that everyone was to bow down to a golden image when the musicians of the kingdom struck up the band. Shadrach, MeShaq, and Abednego refused even though they knew that refusal to obey meant that they would be thrown alive into a blazing furnace!

When their day of execution by fire came they told the King “the God we serve is able to save us.” What faith! Or perhaps, what positive thinking! The real words of faith are what they utter next – “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Now that’s faith! And, that’s what ticked the king with the even stranger name – Nebuchadnezzar – off! He cranked the heat up as high as it would go. The furnace was so hot that the guys that threw the three guys with the weird names in the fire were instantly incinerated!

What happens next is the sole reason for my writing this blog post. Nebuchadnezzar peers into the furnace and sees not three, but four guys! There is a fourth man in the furnace! And the fourth man “Is like the son of the gods.” The King almost had it right, but not quite.  It was The Son of The God! This fourth man was now walking in the fire with the other three and not a hair on their heads was singed and their clothing was not burned. When Nebuchadnezzar dragged them out of the furnace they didn’t even smell like smoke! I can’t even stand at the counter of the gas station more than 30 seconds without coming out smelling like a pack of Camels – the cigarettes not the animals – and these guys come out of a furnace without smelling like they have even been at a wiener roast!

I don’t know what fiery trial that you are going through right now, but I know this. Your chances of coming out ok are greatly diminished without the presence of the fourth man walking through it with you! He wants to walk through it with you! But, He only shows up for those that plan on winning in the first place! The ‘12th man on the field’ tends not to show up for teams that have lost heart and neither does ‘the 4th man’.  But, for those that will stand and say, “Even if he does not show up . . . I will not bow to this world” you can guarantee that ‘the 4th man’ will be there in all of His glory! The Nebuchadnezzar’s of this world are watching you go through your trials church. Will they watch you go through it alone or will they see someone in the fire with you?

May ‘the fourth’ be with you!

Search The Scriptures -- Daniel 1 - 7

Study 1 – Daniel 1

  1. Daniel and his three friends refused to eat anything that was unclean. They resolved to remain obedient to the law of God. They set about doing this by offering a ten day trial test so as to not cause problems for those that were in charge of their care. They submitted to the authorities over them while at the same time remaining in submission to the Lord. This should be the goal of every Christian. When we are confronted with situation that run contrary to God’s Word we need not immediately act in rebellion to our authorities. We need to follow Daniel’s example and find a way to submit to both God and to our authorities when possible.

    As a result of their obedience they were not only healthier than all of the others, but they were 10x as intelligent.

  2. This story proves that there are a variety of ways to take advantage of the things of this world without succumbing to the temptations that surround them. Daniel and his friends received a fantastic education while at the same time remaining true to the Lord. The same can be had by young people today.

Study 2 – Daniel 2:1-30

  1. Daniel sought the prayers of his companions and they together went to the Lord in prayer. Daniel realized that in and of himself that he was powerless to have an answer for the King. When we are confronted with difficult situations we need to surround ourselves with others in the faith and take the matter before the Lord together. There is no need to fight all of our battles on our own.

  2. Rather than asking God to change the king’s mind they asked for the answer to his dream so that God would receive all of the glory. Their prayers not only spared their lives, but placed them in positions of far greater power than they could have ever hoped for.

Study 3 – Daniel 2:31-49

  1. All of the government systems of this world will prove failures and the rock of the Church will emerge victorious above  them all! God will build His Church! The gates of Hell will not prevail against it!

  2. Through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and his impossible request God revealed that He was the God of both the past and the future and that nothing was hidden from His view.

Study 4 – Daniel 3

  1. The Hebrews were accused of : not paying any attention to the commands of the King; refusing to serve the king’s gods; and refusing to bow to the golden image.

  2. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego showed tremendous faith in this situation. They believed that God would deliver them, but also were determined to serve the Lord if deliverance was not to be in their future. They had an unyielding faith like that mentioned in Hebrews. They were willing to die without having received.

Study 5 – Daniel 4

  1. The experience of Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall brought about repentance and the realization that God deserved the glory! The change didn’t come overnight but was nonetheless powerful in its results.

  2. Daniel was trying to let Nebuchadnezzar know that one could only return into the good graces of God through repentance.

Study 6 – Daniel 5

  1. Daniel accused Belshazzar of pride, arrogance, a refusal to humble himself and a lack of honoring the God who holds life in His hands. Belshazzar’s sin was made worse by the fact that he brought articles formerly used in the house of God into a party and thinking that an interpretation to the handwriting could be bought with gold chains and purples robes.

  2. All of our days are numbered. We will all be judged and we will all be found to have fallen short unless we have allowed Christ to make up the shortfall through repentance of our sin and a life lived in obedience to His will. If we fail in that regard we will not inherit an eternal kingdom, but will instead have it ripped away from us.

Study 7 – Daniel 6

  1. The pressures of daily life and the threat of death did not keep Daniel from regular prayer, but I find that even without the threat of death that the pressures of life far too often detract from my time spent with the Lord each day in prayer. It was Daniel’s intimacy from the Lord that had allowed him to hear so clearly from the Lord and had given him the ability to interpret dreams and visions that ultimately led to his elevation in the kingdom in which he served. That same intimacy contributed to his effectiveness in every task that was given to him.

  2. Taking a stand without any external support is not a fun place to be, but I have finally learned to do so. The only thing that has made this possible for me has been this daily study in Search The Scriptures. Were it not for the past three years spent daily in His Word, I don’t know where I would be right now. I imagine that I would have given up a long time ago. I think that people pretty much know that I will not be deterred from God’s Word. That is a tremendous frustration for many people I know, but that no longer concerns me. The only audience that I am concerned with these days is the audience of One. That ‘One’ is not me – It is HIM!

Study 8 – Daniel 7

  1. The little ‘boastful’ horn rising (rising out of the fourth beast)  that was waging war and winning against the saints brought great trouble to Daniel’s spirit.

  2. Nebuchadnezzar’s vision reflected Nebuchadnezzar’s worldview in which power and wealth were to be prized. Daniel’s vision viewed the wealth of the kingdoms of this world from a heavenly perspective which viewed them as predatory and destructive. Daniel’s vision was, of course, the better informed.

  3. The final goal of the mission of God is that the saints of God will inherit the everlasting Kingdom of God!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Search The Scriptures -- Jude

Study 1 – Jude 1-16

  1. Believers are: called, loved, and kept by Jesus Christ. The ungodly described in Jude on the other hand have given license to immorality and had denied the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.

  2. Like Peter, Jude makes clear from Old Testament example that the judgment of God is something that cannot be avoided. The judgment of God is certain to come upon the world in the future with the same power that it had come upon the world in the past. There is no escaping the consequences of disobedience to the heavenly Father.

  3. If Jude and Peter were still referring to the stories of Noah, Cain, and Enoch to prove their case then we should still be referring to the stories of scripture to prove our case for salvation. While the times change there really is nothing new under the sun. The same acts of disobedience of the days of Noah are prevalent among our society today. One should take no shame is standing upon God’s Word.

    Yes, we can use modern day illustrations and tell modern day parables, but we cannot compromise on the message the timeless message of scripture.

Study 2 – Jude 17-25

  1. We need to avoid ‘natural’ solutions at all cost and rely solely on the leading of the Holy Spirit as we confront the dangers inherent in our culture. In doing so we will be sheltered by the mercy of God.

  2. We need to show mercy to everyone and do all that we can to communicate the message of God’s impending judgment upon this world. We should do so in an attempt to ‘snatch some from the fire’. Those that refuse to listen we should continue to show mercy to because we never know when God might touch their heart. Yet, we must be very careful to not allow the things of this world to rub off on us. While we must proclaim the message with mercy and grace we must be very careful to not think for one moment that we can rub off our goodness upon others. The opposite will happen. Jude makes it clear that people wearing clean clothes do not make those wearing stained clothing clean by rubbing up against them. The opposite is true. The clean run the risk of becoming stained!

Quitting Isn't In Our Vocabulary!

I never have shown much mercy when playing games with my kids. I always figured that if the ages on the side of the box coincided with their ages then they were fair game and that I would give it my all to have the most money, most property, or the most points at the end (unless, of course, the lowest score wins)!

When playing a rather difficult game last week; one in which I wasn’t even sure the ages stamped on the side of the box were appropriate; I once again owned the most property, had the most money – you get the idea. The unfortunate part about this particular game is that if you play with three people there will inevitably be one person that gets absolutely trounced. In this case that one person was the oldest twin – Lydia. If you were to compare our net worth at the end of the game it would have had me looking like Rockefeller, Madison looking like Romney, and Lydia looking like Fred Sanford. If you don’t know who Fred Sanford is then I truly feel sorry for you except, of course, for the fact that you’re still young enough that you don’t pull a muscle just getting out of bed in the morning. Ask someone older than forty who Fred Sanford is and don’t be surprised if they clutch their heart and start yelling, “Elizabeth, I’m coming home to you!”

Now back to Lydia’s “agony of defeat” moment. She was devastated! She wanted redemption or perhaps vengeance! She begged me over and over and over and over again for a rematch. I finally said (in a loving and fatherly tone) “You might as well just give up because there is no way that you will ever beat me! Na Na Na Na Na!”

She responded by looking me square in the eye and saying, “Mister, do you have any idea whose house this is? This is the Trout house! In the Trout house we don’t quit!” I immediately swept her up into my arms and gave her the biggest hug that you can imagine! I can’t tell you how happy her response made me feel at that moment. I put her back on the ground, promptly got out the game, called for Madison to come join us, and beat her again!

Actually, I lost, but it wasn’t because I threw the game – trust me!  Yet, in a far more significant way – I won! I have raised a daughter that understands that winning isn’t everything. Yet, she is also well aware of the fact that quitting is not an option. Not in the Trout house!

If you feel like you’re losing big time, it’s not because the Heavenly Father is having you play beyond your level. He doesn’t do that. He’s just trying to bring out the best in you. His kids don’t quit! Dust yourself off and try again! Expect a heavenly hug in return!

2 Peter

Study 1 – 2 Peter 1:1-11

  1. A Christians relationship with God should be something that grows daily. There is no point in our relationship with God where we stop growing in our knowledge of Him. We need to always be seeking ways to understand God in a deeper way. Our attempts to know Him have the benefits of grace, peace, and escape from the destructive forces of living in this world.

  2. Both as a demonstration of our thankfulness for our salvation and our desire to participate in those things that have eternal kingdom value; we are told to be zealous in our efforts to contribute to the fulfillment of God’s will.

  3. The faithful Christian is constantly cultivating his relationship with Christ and is bearing the fruit of that relationship in this life as well as storing up an eternal reward in the everlasting Kingdom of God.

Study 2 – 2 Peter 1:12-21

  1. Peter reminds his readers to keep building up their relationship with Christ and to be totally sold out to Him. Peter is well aware that the time is approaching when the baton will be handed off to the next generation and he wants to make certain that they don’t fumble the exchange. They need to be particularly focused at this crucial point in the history of the Church.

  2. The prophets are to be tested. If what they have said does not stand up to the events that unfold through history then their words have no value. We need to approach modern day prophets with a much more critical eye without cowering  to the notion that we may somehow ‘quench’ the Spirit by questioning the validity of a ‘prophet’s’ statements.

  3. A true prophet does not speak what is on his own heart, but rather, what is on the heart of God. The true prophet does not speak for Himself. He speaks for the Almighty.

Study 3 – 2 Peter 2

  1. The current ‘Christian’ atmosphere is polluted with false teaching. The amount of made up stories and false claims that are created in order to generate greater book sales is appalling. There is a tremendous lack of submission to authority in our present day as everyone feels that they are an authority unto themselves. Our only protection against such false teachers is to be well acquainted with God’s Word. It is only by becoming intimate with the truth that we will easily be able to discern the lie.

Study 4 – 2 Peter 3:1-10

  1. The long delay in the return of Christ was the argument used against His return by the scoffers. The defense against this error was that God was not ‘slow’, but was ‘patient’ because He did not want people to perish. He wanted more people to make it than that which could fit inside of a wooden ark built by the hands of man.

  2. God is going to fulfill His plan and it is going to be on His timetable and will achieve the results that He desires. Nothing that man does will stand in the way of Him fulfilling His mission.

    The days of Noah and the day in which we now live is similar in every spiritual way imaginable! Rather than scoff at the fact that the Lord has not yet returned we need to rejoice that His patience means the possibility of more people escaping the certain judgment to come.

  3. The day is ‘slow’ in coming because God takes no pleasure in the destruction of His creation. He desires that all would come to repentance. His patience equals salvation!

Study 5 --  2 Peter 3:11-18

  1. Based on the certainty of Christ’s return we need to make every possible effort to live holy, blameless, and peaceful lives. Every day and every decision needs to be lived out with an eye on Christ’s imminent return. Keeping His return in focus will bring greater clarity to every decision that we make.

  2. The life of a Christian is one in which we should be continually striving to become more like our Savior. We can never stop working on our relationship with Him; and we can never stop working on helping the advancement of His Kingdom on this earth. He is coming back. The only question that remains is will He find us faithful when He returns?