Jacob and Esau

This entry is part 444 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by White77 from Pixabay

Why was Jacob afraid of his brother Esau?

As Jacob returned from his mother’s native land where he served his uncle Laban for 21 years, he knew he had a big problem on his hands. He didn’t leave the land of Canaan on good terms with his brother Esau.

He wrestled with an angel, before which he divided his party into two groups. He put his precious possessions with Rachel in the second group. If Leah’s group was captured by Esau, he would still have the other group.

As Jacob did all his life, he continued to be deceptive and schemed to get ahead. When he met the angel of the Lord, the fight lasted all night long. He refused to let the angel go until he blessed him.

In an attempt to gain control over the angel, Jacob asked him what his name was. Instead of answering, the angel asked what his name was. Jacob’s name means, “Heel grabber, deceiver.” He finally told the angel his name, and the angel changed it to Israel, “He contends with God.”

From then on, Jacob led a life fairly free of deception. Not only his name, but his character had been changed in the fight. But he was still worried about his brother. He ran away from his brother in fear many years earlier.

In two feats of deception, he stole both his brother’s birthright as the older brother, and his blessing. Once when Esau, a man of the field, was out hunting, he came back very tired. Jacob made him some soup but withheld it from him until he gave his birthright.

At another time, Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebecca, deceived Isaac his father by putting on goat skins and trying to smell like his brother Esau. Isaac became blind in his old age. The deception worked, and Isaac blessed Jacob while Esau was hunting for game to make his father his favorite dish.

Jacob got out of Dodge as fast as he could. His parents instructed him to take a wife in the same land Isaac received Rebecca from. He was gone, Esau apparently didn’t care about this pleasing his parents. He picked a wife from the Canaanites.

Because Jacob stole the birthright and blessing from the firstborn son Esau, he suspected his brother would take all of his possessions and kill him. And when he finally met up with Esau, he found a forgiving brother who had prospered in his own right. Esau’s ability to forgive Jacob for all his deceptions, and Jacob’s character and name change mended a broken brother relationship.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Contending for Jesus

This entry is part 94 of 95 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Every human being can become addicted to something. Addictions can range from drugs to coffee. Anyone who knows me would tell you I am addicted to books. It’s not among the worst, but an addiction is still addiction.

As I continue to talk about Holiness Matters in our lives, I’ve come to the sections on addictions of all kinds. I will be discussing addictions in each of my blog posts for a while. But I want to cover them from the biblical point of view.

I want to start with a contention for the power of Jesus in our lives. I have heard many Christians tell me that addictions cannot be cured. Like our flesh we must continually be on guard against, addictions may not be cured, but they are overcome by the power of Jesus.

Strong Addictions

There’s a line in a worship song I really like. It says, “My sin was great, you love is greater.” The same thing applies to addictions. Addictions are great in our lives. They have control over us, our masters if we’re not careful.

Perhaps before you came to Jesus you were involved in some pretty nasty addictions. They had a hold of your life and you lived to serve them. Drugs ingrained themselves in your biology, so you had to have a fix. Pornography called to you even at work.

Addictions are a tough thing. We have a proclivity toward addictions. Once we get involved with them, it’s hard to get away. Habits also affect our lives and strong ways. We are creatures of habit. We like to do the same things over and over.

Habits and addictions are practically impossible for us to change. Every New Year’s Eve we all talk about our resolutions for next year. And we might last a month with these new behaviors if were lucky.

Addictions have a grip on us that Jesus wants to release. He wants to bring freedom to those who are captive, especially to addictions. But many people don’t believe they can be free from their addictions. Whether it’s that they have become so used to them they want to keep them or they just don’t think they can be free, I hear this a lot.

Why do we let addictions rule our lives? Why don’t we kicked them to the curb? Jesus is our only Master. We cannot allow something else to master us (1 Corinthians 6:12). Notice I said, “allow.” In a real sense no matter how much addictions have been ingrained in our biology, we continue to make the choice to serve them instead of Jesus.

If you think it’s too harsh to say it’s one or the other as a master, the Bible says we can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). You know you’re addicted when you can’t say no to it. If it controls your life, your choices, your relationships, your finances, then it is your master.

Stronger Jesus

So the song i mentioned, the second part of that lyric, says, “Your love is greater.” Our addictions may be strong, but Jesus is stronger. Paul says Jesus came to set us free and we need to live in that freedom, to walk in it (Galatians 5:1).

But you may not be able to give up addictions on your own. In that case, we need help. Sometimes the help of another saint will help us get free. Other times we need professional help to kick our addictions.

Jesus offers his freedom to us. But we must want it, embrace it. As much as the decision is ours, we must seize the time of freedom. When Jesus sets us free from everything, it includes our addictions. Everything that has a name bows to Jesus because his name is greater.

Just like sin, he frees us to choose to serve him. But we can return to the flesh. We can let our flesh when if were not careful. And the same is true for addictions. Jesus gives us freedom from everything that binds us. Everything that controls us and Masters us, it bows to Jesus.

If we don’t believe Jesus has conquered everything in our lives, and we don’t believe Jesus is strong enough. We don’t trust that his sacrifice was more than enough. We put Jesus in a box and say he can only do “this much.”

Jesus is stronger than anything in our lives. He rules our hearts. He rules our decisions. And he rules our actions. He is King and Lord over everything in us. He has given us the power through his Holy Spirit. But we must wield it.

Declaring Freedom

I firmly believe that no matter what we are dealing with Jesus can conquer all things. There is nothing beyond his reach. He sees everything we do and he knows the things we hold on to. We must give them over to him.

In Romans 6, Paul describes us as slaves no matter what. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Because Jesus has freed us and given us the choice to serve him, we must choose to be slaves of righteousness.

At the moment of your salvation, you declared Jesus Lord of your life. But you also declared yourself dead to sin. You declared the freedom and victory of Christ over everything in your life. If you need to, declare that freedom and victory again.

You don’t have to be a slave to your addictions. You can control them as you control the flesh. With the power of the Holy Spirit and his help, you can live in the freedom Christ has declared over you.

Jesus through his Spirit is making you holy and pure. He is looking for people of faith, a blameless and spotless Church. You are his temple, his Church, his body. And he wants his body clean for his return.

Declare open season on your addictions. Take every habit captive to Christ. Because we know Jesus and his freedom, any sin and addiction in our lives, anything that controls us, is there by our choice. We are like a free man who binds himself again.

So let Jesus’ sacrifice and declaration stand for you. Call out your addictions and put them in their place. Rely on your relationship with Jesus and the power of the Spirit. You can’t do this on your own. You need the Holy Spirit’s help. You need the help of other saints to keep you accountable and help you walk in the freedom Jesus one for you.

Conclusion

We all can rely on Jesus’ sacrifice and victory. His freedom is ours. I get excited about this point because so many people have been saved by Jesus but still walk in addictions and the things he set us free from.

I’m not perfect by any means. I haven’t arrived. I’m not looking down on anyone else. I’m in the midst of the crowd of those who walk with Jesus and rely on his victory. I’m no longer a sinner in Jesus’ eyes. God sees me as one of his children.

But I deal with the flesh every day. I must crucify it when it rears its ugly head. This is part of walking with Jesus until he finishes his work of holiness in each of us. But you don’t have to struggle alone. There is a great cloud of witnesses who are for you. The Holy Spirit is for you. Leave a comment and declare the freedom and victory of Christ.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sacrificing Isaac

This entry is part 443 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Jody Davis from Pixabay

What was God trying to show Abraham (since God already knew) when he tested Abraham by having him attempt to take his own son’s life?

Sacrificing Isaac was beneficial for both God and Abraham. Found in Genesis 22, this is also a great representation of God the Father allowing Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. There are some parallels with one major difference.

Abraham does not end up having to sacrifice his son of the promise, Isaac. But God allows Jesus to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we have the opportunity to have a relationship with God.

As we know from this account, an angel from heaven stops Abraham from going through with the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham tried to fulfill God’s promise through Ishmael. But that’s not what God wanted. His promise referred to a miraculous birth of Isaac through a barren and elderly Sarah.

God wanted to be the one to fulfill his promise, not allow Abraham to do it. Then when Abraham received Isaac, he saw God’s goodness, and that God fulfills his promises. God tested Abraham by demanding the sacrifice of Isaac to see if Abraham would try to get out of it.

After all, Isaac was the promised son who would be his heir. Through Isaac, the nation of Israel would come about after his son Jacob was renamed Israel. But Isaac was crucial to the process. Without Isaac, you don’t have Jacob or his twelve sons.

God was bringing Abraham to a place where he could trust his promise even if he took away the result of the promise. Abraham had to believe that God will provide a way to fulfill his promise if Isaac was not there.

So God saw that Abraham finally trusted him for all things, especially his promise. Hebrews tells us Abraham believed God could raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). And God provided the sacrifice when he sent the ram in the ticket.

Abraham learned to trust in God’s promises and provision. No matter what happened, God would make good on his promises. Abraham learned about God’s character that day. He also learned that God provides.

The whole time he and Isaac are headed to the mountain, when Isaac asks about providing the sacrifice, Abraham says God will provide it. At the time, Isaac was the sacrifice God was providing through his promise. But then God stopped him and provided another sacrifice.

When we trust in God’s promises, his provision will always be available to us. This is what Abraham learned from the sacrifice of his son. God will make his plan work through his promises. He does the work of the sacrifice.

We must trust in his promises without trying to make them come to pass ourselves. It is up to God to do what he promised. It is up to us to trust his promise, that he will fulfill it in his own way and time.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Free Grace

This entry is part 442 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

Would there Biblically be strings attached to free grace?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called “The Cost of Discipleship” where he talked about the idea that free grace is not free. Jesus died on the cross to bring us grace. When we treat it like free grace, we belittle his sacrifice.

It is grace for us, and it is free to us. But it cost Jesus his life. We must not think of it as something we can use to do what we want. To cheapen grace by calling it free makes us think of the other free things we have.

When I get something for free, I don’t cherish it nearly as much as something I pay for. If I pay for a product, I use it more than the free things I receive. We mustn’t do this to the grace God gives. So in this sense, grace is not free.

As far as strings attached go, Jesus expects us to live a holy life. Throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, there is an emphasis on holiness. This is not gained purely through our own abilities. The Holy Spirit guides us into holiness.

I have always preached and taught that the only thing Jesus requires of us is obedience. Several times in the Gospels Jesus called us to obey his commandments and teachings. But obedience doesn’t come easy to us. It will take a lifetime to learn how to obey Christ in every situation.

Our obedience follows on the commands of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit. As he works on our character to conform us to the image of Christ, he calls us to do certain things. Through our obedience, we do works to glorify God.

These are not words that save. They are works to glorify God and please him. We do it out of love instead of obligation. So we please God through loving acts that confirm our faith in Christ. This is what God expects from us and calls us to do. His grace toward us is a blessing we can never repay.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Foreknowledge and Punishment

This entry is part 441 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

Why did God punish Adam and Eve if he knew they would sin?

This is a question we ask from our perspective. We don’t fully understand how God works, how he does things. So we ask questions based on our limited perspective and knowledge of who he is and what he has done.

Scripture talks about God’s foreknowledge, that he knows things before they happen, and he knows us in and out. He made us, so he knows who we are and how we react in situations. Some people argue God’s foreknowledge doesn’t mean he directs every molecule in the universe. Others suggest that God directs everything.

No matter what end of the spectrum of these theological views you prescribe to, or if you’re in the middle somewhere, it’s hard for us to understand everything that God does. With that said, I will do my best with my limited understanding to answer why God punished Adam and Eve.

The emphasis we place with this question is on God knowing beforehand Adam and Eve would fall and sin against him in rebellion. However, this is because we have already read what happened. When I read Scripture, I try to put my mindset at the point of time that that part of Scripture is written.

What I mean by this is that we know what the rest of Scripture says about an event in the past. For instance, when Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth, Hebrews 11:3 tells us that it was out of nothing God created. We wouldn’t be able to infer that just from Genesis 1:1.

We do this a lot as we read Scripture. We know more than the people at the time we’re reading in the Bible knew. So we infer from what we know the rest of Scripture upon the events we read. It’s only natural for us to do this.

At the time Adam and Eve were in the garden, the suspense builds toward the event when they ate the fruit and disobeyed God. God told them that they can do anything they want except for one thing.

He said they must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He gave them one rule, and expected them with their many freedoms in the garden to obey him. He told them what would happen, even if they didn’t understand it.

He said that in the day they eat of the fruit from that one tree in the garden full of trees, they would die. They had no idea what death was. But they knew it was the consequence of disobeying him. So even though they didn’t fully comprehend death, the consequence of their disobedience, they still knew it was not a good thing.

Anyone might ask as they are reading, “Why didn’t Adam and Eve die when they ate the fruit?” We might think it was poisonous and would kill them physically, but that kind of death is not what God was referring to.

The minute they ate fruit, they were separated from God, spiritually dead. We know this because they ran from God’s presence that came in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Why did they run? Because they were separated from him. This is the death God was referring to.

The fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil made Adam and Eve, and all humans from then on, responsible for moral choices. Before this, they had no moral choices to make. The serpent presented them with the very first moral choice, to obey or disobey God.

Choosing to disobey God and sin against him opened humanity to responsibility for moral choices. They were open to the consequences of those choices from then on. So God punished Adam and Eve because they disobeyed him.

Despite not fully understanding the consequences of their disobedience, they knew God would punish them if they disobeyed him. So the point isn’t that God knew beforehand they would disobey him. The point is that he gave them one command and they broke it. When we disobey God, the consequences and punishments of that disobedience come our way.

That’s the best part about Jesus coming and dying on the cross. Instead of punishing us for our sin, Jesus made a way to restore relationship with God. He suffered in our place so we didn’t have to experience the pain and death of separation from God for eternity.

God’s grace came on the cross. He forgives those who turn from their sin to Jesus. Because he knew beforehand that humans would sin against him, God made a way for us to be redeemed, saved, and set free.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Working for God

This entry is part 93 of 95 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

Jesus told his followers they are in the world but not of it. We work in the world but our home is in heaven. But what does that look like? Some people charge Christians that they are to heavenly minded to be any good.

Knowing our destiny reminds us of our purpose here on earth. While we are here, we can do the works of the Father like Jesus did. He put you here for a reason, and until you are accomplishing his purpose for you, you will not be fulfilled.

In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Little refuses to run on Sunday for the Olympics. And yet he says that when he runs he feels God’s pleasure. We don’t have to give up our principles to do the works of God. Stand firm on your principles and complete his plan for your life.

Jesus’ Hands and Feet

From the age of twelve, Jesus was going about his Father’s business. He was in the temple talking to the scribes about the Scriptures. And he was schooling them! The faster we know what God wants us to do, the faster we can get to it.

We talk a lot about compassion ministries as being Jesus’ hands and feet. I’ve heard many people describe it as being Jesus with skin on. As his body, Christians have been called to do his works in this world.

So what are those works? How do we be his hands and feet? Jesus talked about serving the poor, those in prison, and a host of others the world and society has left by the wayside. These people understand what it means to be ministered to. And I think they appreciate it more than most people.

But there are many things we can do as Christians that further the kingdom of God. But being his hands and feet means we don’t just talk about these things. We actively pursue them as his hands. We reach out and we touch the needy.

We go wherever the gospel and the kingdom can make a great impact. When you go, remember to tell people why you do what you do for them. Otherwise, it’s just another well-meaning government program or compassionate neighborly action.

We aren’t interested in the praise of others. We serve for the pleasure of one, Jesus who sent us. Sometimes no one will recognize you for the good that you do. In serving the people who need it the most, we are serving the Lord.

Serving at Work

Some Christians get the impression when they listen to sermons and to Bible teachers that to do something significant they must become a full-time pastor or missionary overseas. But that’s not the case.

You can serve Jesus in your world all around you. It’s not wrong to go on a missions trip. But it starts at home in your own backyard. So whether you go to work or school, these are perfect places to learn how to serve Jesus.

There are hurting and lost people at your work and at your school. These people need to hear the gospel. Sometimes it’s better that they hear it through what you do for them before they hear it through your witness.

Lifestyle evangelism is one of the most powerful tools you have in your toolbox. People don’t want to hear what you have to say until they know you see their need. It’s true that everyone needs Jesus. But they may not see it that way. Perhaps they need groceries, a little bit of money, or something else.

There’s a very popular book called the Five Love Languages where you must learn to show love the way people receive it instead of the way you want to give it. When you’re at the office, the construction site, or wherever else you work, people will only receive what you have to say about Jesus when you show Jesus with your response to their needs.

This requires sacrifice. When we minister to others, we give out of our storehouse. You store resources, giving you the ability to help other people in the ways they need. When you discover a need, you can pray and ask God how you can fulfill it.

And when you do, don’t be silent about why you’re doing it. Tell them God told you what they needed and how to help them the most. You’ll be surprised how open people are to hearing about Jesus after you take care of their needs. But you must listen to God’s voice and be creative in how you help others.

Serving at Home

Do you realize how important you are to your family? The most impact you can make in your world is at home. So many people stay away from their family. Perhaps your family growing up was abusive or dismissive.

Whatever the case, you can set a new standard in your home life. Some people are workaholics because they don’t want to be home. Other people spend their time at the bar. But you make an impact on your spouse and children with your absence as much as your presence. Don’t let the devil have your family. Choose to make your biggest impact at home.

I came from a good and godly home. My parents kept me in line and taught me to live for God. That meant that they didn’t just hand me off to the Sunday School teacher or make me listen to the sermons at church. They modeled everything we believe at home.

Today I am a minister of the gospel and serve the church fervently and happily. They’ve never maybe feel like I could never come home. In fact, when I was struck with paralysis, my parents began to figure out a way to bring me home.

They are some of my greatest examples of heroes in the faith. Becoming that for your family members requires faithfulness to Christ and to them. It takes time to build relationships. You must gain their respect and love.

Maybe you are behind the game because you haven’t done this before. It’s never too late to start. Reach out to them, and you may be surprised how they react. You may have to give them time to process the change in your relationship with them.

But you should do what you can. The earlier you start, the better of a chance you have to change your relationship with them. It’s important for fathers to model what it means to have a Heavenly Father who loves them. Mothers demonstrate God’s nourishing character to their children.

Most importantly, be present in the moment with your family members. We can talk about having devotions with them, talking about God more often, and those types of things. But first you must be present when nothing you say will matter.

Ask God how you can get more involved with your family. I have a friend who took a pay cut and less hours at work so he could be home more. He may not be making as much money, but the impact he is making on his family is unmeasurable.

Serving at Church

Another way you can serve God may seem obvious. What are you doing a church? Are you just showing up, warming up a pew or chair, listening to the worship music, and even staying awake during the sermon?

The things we do in a typical church service are only meant to prepare you to minister the rest of the week. It’s not all up to the pastor. You need to be finding ways to serve in your local church.

What ministries does your church have? Discover your ministry and spiritual gifts. This is a primary way to serve the church and Christ. You are gifts plus and serve others.

You may not have a ministry or spiritual gift that’s out in the open or upfront. Usually God will give you gifts that match your personality. I know people who would never want to be on stage, but serve at the soundboard with excellence.

Some people are outgoing and find out they have the gift of evangelism or hospitality. Every once in a while God really messes with you and gives you some gifts that don’t match your personality or preferences. Own these gifts and the ministry that comes with them.

Serving in church is serving other saints. It’s also serving the community around the church. God’s going to use you in powerful ways. But you have to be open to being used by him. Let your heart start with the desire for God to use you to change the lives of others.

Serving Abroad

Yes, I already mentioned missions. I want to stress that going on a missions trip opens your eyes to the needs around the world. When you see how other people live, what they have and don’t have compared to you, it opens your heart.

Missions changes your perspective. If you never go on a missions trip, you might never know how much God has blessed you. Most people notice the differences in material things first. But then they see the hunger other people have for Jesus.

It starts with becoming sensitive to the material needs of others. But it goes far beyond that when you realize how hungry people are for God, and how much they need a spiritual move.

Missions trips aren’t the only way to serve abroad. When we can’t go, we can pray for missionaries’ needs. Get the newsletter and find out what you can pray for.

Giving to missions financially is another way we can send people when we can’t go ourselves. Consider a local missions trip, more short-term and manageable for many.

When I was in Bible College, I took missions trips to Newark, New Jersey. It was encouraging to work with the US missionary there. Our first year, we prayed for the property and building he wanted to start a church in. My next year, we were cleaning out the building they purchased. It’s encouraging to see progress.

Conclusion

However you want to approach working for God, there are many options. But you must show up and be present. You must ask God what he wants you to do. Be led by the Holy Spirit. Don’t just do something to do it.

Doing more stuff doesn’t mean you’re fulfilling your purpose. But don’t spend too much time asking God about it and thinking about it. Get involved at work, home, church, and abroad. Leave a comment and share how you serve in these arenas of your life.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Genuine Love

This entry is part 440 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by autumnsgoddess0 from Pixabay

What does Romans 12:9 teach us about love?

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9–10, ESV)

Genuine love among Christians is impossible to emulate unless we truly love one another. We can’t say one thing to a person’s face and say another thing behind their back. We can’t gossip about one another and call it love.

Jesus showed genuine love on the cross when he died for us, and gave himself up so we can have a relationship with him. Genuine love among us requires unconditional and sacrificial love as Jesus demonstrated.

The second part of Romans 12:9 explains that love is pure, seeking what is good instead of what is evil. Paul further explained love in 1 Corinthians 13. The whole chapter expounds on unconditional love. Even if we didn’t understand the Greek word for love here, these verses provide further understanding.

I include Romans 12:10 because it further explains the kind of love Christians have for one another. Loving one another with brotherly affection refers to the familial relationship we have. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

How we treat one another matters greatly to God. It is part of coming fully before the Lord to treat others with unconditional love, treating them like family. This is not the way the Mafia treats family. It’s the way God treats us in offering salvation and an inheritance in his family.

Christian love means we outdo one another in showing honor and kindness. We bend over backwards, go the extra mile, to do whatever we can for each other. Our love is shown not with an emotion but an action.

I have only scratched the surface of what it means to unconditionally love other believers as Jesus loved us. He is our example in all things. It’s only because of his love for us that we can understand unconditional love at all.

It’s easy to love people in our family or our spouse. But showing unconditional love to people we wouldn’t consider family or friends is a wholly different matter. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit in us to follow this command to love one another.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Partnerships

This entry is part 92 of 95 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by SCY from Pixabay

People partner together to get more things done faster. Partnerships create a synergy that compounds the ability of an individual. Partnering in business brings productivity, unity of purpose, efficiency, and other benefits.

Becoming partners takes on a whole new meaning when we must create a place of productivity. It requires commitments on both sides of the equation for a partnership to work. They are often brought about with contracts to make sure that each partner does his or her part.

Paul considers Christian partnerships when he talks about the holiness principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers. How far does this principle go? Is it required of Christians all the time, so that there can be no partnerships with unbelievers?

Let’s consider the idea of being unequally as it pertains to holiness. Is it talking about business relationships? Why does this principle even exist? The whole point of the principle is holiness before the Lord.

Unequally Yoked

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul introduces the holiness principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. You often hear this phrase in reference to dating and marriage. But it is much larger than that.

A yoke refers to a piece of farming equipment, a wooden or leather binding, put over the necks of two oxen. As they plowed the fields or did other farm work, a yoke kept one ox from pulling ahead of the other. It ensured that the oxen would work as one unit.

If they didn’t work together, one ox would get tired before the other. As it pulled ahead, the other ox would linger behind, slowing it down. So the yoke kept both of them working at peak proficiency to achieve the goal.

This is the same way Paul speaks of being unequally yoked with unbelievers. The problem is that Christians have different values, worldview, and goals (2 Corinthians 6:15-16). They have a set of standards different than those of unbelievers. Unbelievers have a different approach to everything they do.

Because these values will be incompatible with one another, they will make the work more difficult. From the very beginning, the goals of Christians and unbelievers are different. They will approach the work with different standards.

When you think about it, it’s a wonder anything can get done in this scenario. This is one of the reasons Paul gave us the principle of being unequally yoked. But there’s a deeper reason. God calls us to live holy lives. That requires us not to get involved with unbelievers in unholy goals.

If what an unbeliever wants to accomplish goes against God’s will and plan, we must not get involved. Getting involved is the same as giving up the path to holiness and following roads we gave up when we followed Christ.

Partnering with Believers

Partnerships with believers are the opposite of being unequally yoked, and they are encouraged throughout Scripture. Everyone from Peter to Paul to missionaries today enjoys partnerships with other Christians with the same goal and values.

We raise money for missions so the Word of God and the good news of Christ’s kingdom can spread across the world. Where we may not be able to go ourselves, we can send missionaries and finance and pray for their endeavors.

We can work together as Christians because we share the same values. We work with the same godly principles, expecting the high standards of God to be followed in our work. Whatever we put our hands to, having partners allows us to accomplish those goals more proficiently and efficiently.

We partner in everything as brothers and sisters in Christ. We partner in worshiping and serving God, praying for one another, agreeing in prayer, trusting in faith for God’s promises and miracles, working toward his kingdom on earth, and a host of other enterprises.

Christians may not always get along because of personality issues, but our values must be the same. This makes it easier in most circumstances to do business and work for the Lord. What one person can do, partnerships can accomplish beyond that person’s wildest dreams.

The world offers persecution and troubles. It’s not that unbelievers can’t work with Christians. But it is easier to work with those who share the same worldview and values. Not only this, but the Scriptures are centered on holiness.

It’s much harder to achieve holiness when you work with unbelievers. In our society today, Christians work among nonbelievers regularly. This is more the norm then the exception. We must not misunderstand what “world” means in the Bible.

When the Bible refers to the world in many circumstances, it speaks of the evil world system. We are in the world but not of it. We are called to come out from among them and separate ourselves from sinfulness.

If you have a partnership with an unbeliever, you must agree on the terms of the partnership before you enter it. This is where contracts come into play. They do not only outline the work ethic but also the values and goals of the individuals involved in it.

If you are involved in a partnership with an unbeliever, make sure you are able to influence the unbeliever. Just working alongside of them, they will see your values and work ethic. But there will be misunderstandings and differences along the way.

Your first goal in your partnerships is to glorify God with your purpose, goals, values, and work ethic. You must live a holy life before the Lord as you achieve your goals and whatever partnership you are involved with.

Partnering with Unbelievers

Does this principle of being unequally yield with unbelievers mean we can have no partnerships with anyone who doesn’t serve Christ? Not necessarily. As I said above, if you can agree to the terms of the partnership without giving up holiness in Christ, a partnership is possible.

But it requires a contract so the terms can be agreed upon before the work begins. It is hard to avoid working with or for unbelievers in our world today. Sometimes even partnerships with other Christians are not fruitful.

Christians must be sure they will not help unholy endeavors before they enter a partnership with an unbeliever. When unbelievers become the influencers of Christians, there is a problem.

You never know if the values agreed upon will be maintained throughout the partnership. It’s not that you can’t trust unbelievers. But the values and worldviews are so different it is bound to happen. And when it does, the Christian may be the one hurt by the partnership.

God doesn’t want these kinds of conditions for his children. This is why the principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers is in Scripture. At the very least it serves as a warning for Christians to enter into such partnerships.

Paul focuses on Christians as the temples of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16). The Holy Spirit and habits Christians and having unequally yoked partnerships disagrees with the Spirit’s goal of making us more like Christ (Romans 8:29).

God’s goal in making his dwelling place among us is to make us holy so he can be with us in heaven physically forever. Throughout Scripture, the constant refrain of, “I will be their God and they will be my people” is God’s ultimate goal for us. Partnering with believers can challenge that goal.

Bad company corrupts good judgment (1 Corinthians 15:33). When we are around unbelievers more than believers, I have found that unbelievers tend to influence Christians. We pick up their habits, language, outlook on life, attitude, and so on. We must be careful to avoid taking on the behaviors and beliefs of unbelievers.

Partnering in Marriage

The principle of being unequally yoked with unbelievers is often applied to dating and marriage. It is best applied in dating before marriage. This is where we discover whether or not we are compatible with the other person.

In the search for compatibility we discover whether or not the other person is a Christian with Christian values and beliefs. Without that foundation, we will find our marriage a rocky road. Everything from values, how you will deal with money, raising children, handling challenges in life, communicating, and every other issue, comes up in a close bond of marriage.

This is why the principle is so important before marriage. You will save yourself much heartache when you make sure values are compatible. Jesus must be the center of your marriage if it will succeed.

The host of divorces we see inside and outside of the church testify to the fact that people do not commit to Christian values in the dating process. They get married without truly knowing their partner. Then surprises crop up in the marriage that may be irreversible.

We must be careful in our dating process to find out everything we can, and understand our dating partner before we consider the permanent bond of marriage. Marriage is intimate, and the things we don’t learn during our dating show up in our marriage.

God wants the very best marriage for you. There will always be challenges in marriage, but they can be minimized by making sure you are equally yoked with your partner. If your partner has a problem with you making sure these values align, they are not “the one.” And if you are uncomfortable as a single, you will be uncomfortable when you are married.

Conclusion

The principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers is not meant to be harsh, something we impose as isolationists upon unbelievers. It is at the least a warning for us to be careful which partnerships we choose to join.

But it also explains what happens if we do join in these partnerships. When things come crashing down, we look back at this principle and realize God’s wisdom in it. I am not counseling you can never be part of a partnership with an unbeliever.

I am only explaining the principle so you understand the aspects of such partnerships before you enter them. They may be hard to get out of if you run into problems. God is looking out for you. Leave a comment and talk about how you understand the principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Posted in Holiness Matters | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Content in God’s Provision

This entry is part 439 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds

What is the meaning of Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 and Matthew 22:1-6?

Many people like to quote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But they generally quote it out of context. They quote it in ways where you would imagine that God can give you all kinds of power to do anything.

But the context of Philippians 4:13 is the surrounding idea of learning to be content in every situation. Paul originally discusses how the Philippians have provided for him and he knows how to be content whether he is rich or poor, in the midst of God’s blessing or in trial, and in every other way (Philippians 4:10-11).

This is a matter of Christian maturity. It’s not something you just pick up. Paul says he learned how to do this, how to be content no matter what his situation. The Philippians were concerned for some of his physical or monetary needs.

Paul gently tells them he can handle whatever life throws at him. Because of his faith in God’s provision, he knows that his needs will be provided for by God. God may use the Philippians to provide some of those needs. So he doesn’t tell them not to provide for his needs. But he explains that he is not begging for their money.

God will take care of him and us. Even in supernatural, miraculous ways God provides for us. The more we trust in God the more we will see his provision. But he also provides for us when we barely have enough faith to stand in him.

When Paul says he knows how to be brought low and abound (Philippians 4:12) he means that he has learned how to thank God for his blessings and how to turn to God and his deepest needs. This is different than wants. Needs are things we cannot survive without. It’s not that God doesn’t bless us and what we want.

We must remember in the times we abound that the lavish provision and blessing of God in these times is not by our own ability. It’s God blessing our socks off. And when we are in these times, we must remember to give all the glory and praise to God for his lavish provision.

But in the hard times, the trials of life, the financial difficulties, the bankruptcy, God is with us. He walks with us through these things, and he provides exactly what we need. We may not think we need what he provides, but he gives it to us.

We must learn to trust in him for provision during these low times. His grace abounds in these times just as much is in the abundant times. But we need to learn to see it and thank him for it. We tend to be more sensitive to God’s provision in times of need.

So when Paul says he can do all things, he means that he can abound in the abundant times and give God glory, and he can seek the Lord for provision in the times of need, and receive by faith from the Lord. Doing all things means he can handle every situation, but only by the grace and power of Christ.

It’s not him having the strength. It’s God giving him strength to handle every situation. Paul doesn’t tell the Philippians not to provide for his needs (Philippians 4:14). He goes on to give more background on the beginning of his ministry in that region. He was in need and no church would help. But the Philippians wanted to help him.

We must realize when people are blessing us in our times of need. We must thank them, but thank God as well because he is the one who provided through them. God’s Spirit impresses on people to help us in our need. We must be thankful.

Paul tells the Philippians that God has supplied more than enough for his need. And then we come to the end of the section. Just as he provides an example of how God lavishly supplied all of his needs in a time of need, he says that God will supply every need you have (Philippians 4:19).

But he does it according to his riches in glory. God owns everything. When we need something, he can supply unlike anyone else. We must not be afraid to ask the God who supplies every need.

And every time he supplies whether it is supernaturally or through the help of another person, we must be sure to give God all the glory for what he has done (Philippians 4:20). As profuse as we are for our requests in prayer, we should be doubly prolific and are praising God in the good and bad times.

Matthew 22:1-6 is a parable about the kingdom of God where Jesus talks about it as a banquet. It has a completely different focus then Philippians 4.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Meaning of Amen

This entry is part 426 of 444 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Is ‘Amen’ the last word in the Bible?

Yes, last run of the book of Revelation and the Bible is “Amen” (Revelation 22:21). But the significance of this word must be explained. It comes from the Hebrew word for “established, faithfulness.” It talks about whatever he said being established.

Some people talk about the word meaning “Let it happen as you have said.” This is an accurate understanding of the word. We use it at the end of prayers for this very purpose. It is in agreement with God that what we pray about will be done according to his will.

The significance of Revelation, and the whole Bible, ending with this word is that it asks God to do what is Word says. It ends the prophecy of Revelation, but that’s not all. Not only does it talk about God’s judgment in the end times and the salvation of the Church, but it also describes all of God’s plan of salvation through the Bible coming to pass.

John ends the Bible by asking God to bring forth everything he has promised. The salvation of every Christian comes to pass with Amen. Got establishes his Word. It is a foundational word that brings God’s faithfulness to fulfillment.

Everything you read in the Bible is not only true, but happens and is completed or finished. God’s faithfulness in what he says is confirmed with Amen. We cannot underestimate the significance of this word and why we use it in prayer.

All of human history must agree with God’s will. And all this is behind the simple four letter word Amen. Now it must be backed with the hope of the fulfillment of God’s promises and the faith to see them as completed. We pray in faith and we read the Bible in faith. And God makes it happen.

Posted in Inquiring Minds | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment