That’s not Fair!

By Scott Armstrong

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (Psalm 37:7)

(Read Psalm 37:3-8)

When they are little, siblings often complain about “fairness.”  Is that not the most burning issue to a small child? If one toddler takes a toy away, another exclaims for all to hear, “Hey, that’s not fair!”  If one brother gets to go over to a friend’s house while the other stays home, the “tortured” sibling mopes to his dad and mom, “But that’s not fair!”

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Even as teens and adults, we are usually concerned about fairness.  She got those grades and didn’t even try. He makes more money than I do and I work much harder.  The issue is even more complex when we see followers of Christ suffering and those who don’t even care about God living the high life. It is definitely easy to focus on those around us and ask God, “Are you seeing this? It’s just not fair!”

Maybe that is why David writes Psalm 37.  In its first 8 verses, he says 3 times, “Do not fret,” especially with regards to the apparent success of “evil men” who carry out “wicked schemes.”  It is as if David is saying, “I know it’s not fair.  But don’t worry about it.  God knows.”

Perhaps more importantly, David gives us some great advice.

“Trust in the Lord and do good…”

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart…”

“Commit your way to the Lord…”

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

Those are words of guidance and also of encouragement.  Although the circumstances in your life may not be fair, God sees and knows everything.  He has incredible promises in store for you if you continue to faithfully serve him (vv.4-6).  Instead of focusing on others, let’s focus on the Lord and trust in him.

OK, Fine! I’m Sorry!!

By Scott Armstrong

“Listen, my people, and I will speak; I will testify against you, Israel: I am God, your God. I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me” (Ps. 50:7-8).

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(Read Psalm 50:7-15)

I am very lucky to have a brother.  Since he is only two years younger, we had many of the same friends and many of the same interests when we were growing up.  We played together a lot and are still good friends to this day.

But obviously we had our moments of fighting, too.  And I remember as my mom broke up many heated wrestling matches, she would look at me and demand, “Say you’re sorry, Scott.”  Of course, as an obedient son, with true remorse in my heart at what I had done, I would grudgingly mutter, “I’m sorry,” and then wait for my mom to leave before making a face at my brother.

If you have a sibling, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  There are ways to say “I’m sorry” genuinely, and ways to say those words without meaning an ounce of them.  There are times we have asked for forgiveness and meant it and times when we just did it because it was what we were supposed to do.

This is a theme we have had twice in the past week.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6).  In the psalm we just read, God is pleading again for obedience.  If I tell my brother, “I’m sorry,” and yet five minutes later do the same thing in order to irritate him, do I really mean it? God is dealing with the same thing.  So many of his people are praying to him or, in the Old Testament context, sacrificing bulls and goats, without ever having the intention of obeying him.  He desires thankfulness; he wants us to “fulfill our vows”—in other words, obey (v.14).  When we sincerely call on him, he will deliver (v.15), but he wants us to come to him in genuine humility and with a real desire to obey.

What has your relationship with God been like recently? Have you been serving him because you know you should or because you genuinely want to? Has your obedience come from your heart or merely been external? God wants us to obey him out of love and thankfulness for what he has done.  Pray with him right now.  That kind of relationship with him can begin today.

 

Everywhere, With Everyone, All The Time

By Scott Armstrong

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 11:18-19).

(Read Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28)

As a missionary—and sports fan—who lived in Guatemala several years ago, I discovered that Guatemala hasn’t really found out that there are many other sports outside of soccer.  They love their soccer, and players for the national team are heroes after a big win.  After an especially big victory over Costa Rica, I listened to the commentator on the radio excitedly praise the player who had scored both goals.  I can still hear him encourage the listeners in Spanish to “Bring Juan Carlos Plata into your home!  He deserves a place in the kitchen!  In the living room!  Talk about him in the morning, afternoon, and night!  Tell your kids what he just did for Guatemala!” 

Although that seems a little bit ridiculous, our verses for today point us in a similar direction.  This time, however, it is God’s Word that we should think about and talk about during the day.  His words and commands should be “fixed in our hearts and minds,” talked about “when you lie down and when you get up.”  Both parents and kids should live and breathe his Word 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  We should all be familiar with what he did for us and how his Word instructs us in our daily life.

Does this mean we can’t talk about anything else but the Bible? Are we just supposed to walk around high school and chant memory verses? Of course not.  But it does mean that we’re not just getting into God’s Word every day; it’s getting into you.  Sometimes we hurry through our two minutes of devotions and ten minutes later can’t remember what we read.  According to today’s passage, that is pretty far from what God wants for our lives!

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Is God’s Word in you or are you barely getting into God’s word each day? Is it a part of you or is it the essence of who you are? With all of the pressures of being a teen, it might be hard to imagine yourself just soaking his word in like a sponge soaks in water.  But it will make a world of difference.  When Jesus experienced the toughest of times, God’s Word was so much inside him that he oozed Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).  What would happen if you took with you today the verses you just read and carried them in your mind and heart throughout all of the activities, stresses, and temptations of the next 24 hours? It might just change your attitudes, conversations, and the way you react to tough situations.  Why don’t we find out? Read those verses again and ask God to help put them under your skin and into your heart and life today.

“But God”

The following article was originally posted at: “Moments With The Book

When reading the Scriptures, one cannot help but notice the oft-repeated expression “But God…” These two words signal a change, a contrast, or a clarification is coming next. “But God.” What follows this significant transition is intended to challenge our faith and change our life. When He is brought into the picture, God makes all the difference. Realizing that some who read this paper may not have a Bible to look up the references, we will quote some of the “But God” verses, while urging all to look up others and read the supporting contexts.

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But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, …to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).

Nevertheless the Lord thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee (Deuteronomy 23:5).

And [Samson] was sore athirst, and called on the Lord, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of Thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived (Judges 15:18,19).

And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand (1 Samuel 23:14).

And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah (2 Chronicles 32:7,8).

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever (Psalm 73:26).

But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth (Psalm 86:15).

They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge (Psalm 94:21,22).

The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind (Isaiah 17:13).

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand for ever (Isaiah 40:8).

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days (Daniel 2:27,28).

So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered (Jonah 4:6,7).

When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:25,26).

When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this Man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only? (Mark 2:5-7).

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:19-21).

And [Jesus] said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).

But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12,13).

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).

And [Peter] said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).

They took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:29,30).

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7,8).

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:26,27).

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6,7).

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God (2 Corinthians 3:5).

For indeed [Epaphroditus] was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also (Philippians 2:27).

 

New Beginnings

By Scott Armstrong

Need a new beginning in your life, in your city, or in your church? God specializes in helping us start afresh. 

God gives us fresh songs of praise.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Ps. 40:3)

God is in the heart-transplant business.

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 11:19)

In the driest wilderness, God’s refreshing fountain springs forth!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Is. 43:19)

God changes minds, attitudes, and entire selves so that we are like him!

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

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God truly makes ALL things new.

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (Is. 65:17)

In Christ, God gives us a fresh start.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

The new beginning does not have to wait – God’s mercies are new every morning!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)

Even at the end of the story, God starts another one.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” (Rev. 21:5)