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Don’t confuse discipline and trials

Don't confuse trials with discipline

A woman wrote me about a miscarriage she experienced. She asked if she was being punished. It was heartbreaking. Miscarriages are painful enough without having to wonder if God is upset with you.

We experience trials because we live in a fallen world

Trials take place as long as we’re on this side of heaven, but they’re not our fault. Why does God allow them? He uses them to:

  • Mature us: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4; see also Romans 5:3–5).
  • Strengthen our faith: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

As I look back at trials I’ve experienced, they were painful, but I’m thankful for them. God used them for my benefit.

We experience discipline because we sinned

Hebrews 12:5­–6 records:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

God punishes us when we sin. He wants to produce fruit and righteousness in our lives. While this doesn’t feel good, we should embrace the chastening, understanding God is doing something worthwhile. The author of Hebrews goes on to say in verses 11–13: Continue reading Don’t confuse discipline and trials

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Generational curses: are children punished for their parents’ sins?

Generational curses: are children punished for the sins of their parents?

If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard generational curses discussed. There are two conflicting opinions:

  • God punishes children for the sins of their parents.
  • God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents.

Why the confusion regarding generational curses?

Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…

Verses seem to support and argue against generational curses…

Exodus 20:5, 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9 indicate God punishes children for the sins of their parents:

You shall not bow down to [idols] nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.

Other such as Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 indicate God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents:

Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 The LORD says, “What do you mean by this proverb, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? This proverb shall no more be used. Behold, the soul who sins shall die…The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father…the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The people said they were punished (their teeth were bad: “set on edge”), because of their parents’ sins (the “sour grapes” they ate). God said, “Don’t say this anymore. You’ll be punished for your own sins!”

So which is it? Continue reading Generational curses: are children punished for their parents’ sins?

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The best way to counsel believers in sin

counsel believers in sin
Glennon Doyle Melton and Abby Wambach

There’s terrible confusion regarding what is and isn’t loving when it comes to correcting people. This makes it difficult to counsel believers in sin. Take for instance homosexuality, which draws almost immediate hostility when criticized. The most disheartening situations occur when believers defend sinful behavior. Take for instance author, speaker, and professing Christian Glennon Doyle Melton announcing she is in a relationship with soccer star Abby Wambach.

How would I counsel professing believers in sin, such as Glennon Doyle Melton?

Before Katie and I were married, she looked for a job doing massage. We were excited when the professing Christian owner of a local barber shop offered her a room. After Katie’s first day of work she told me, “I don’t know how to say this, but the woman who owns the shop…is a man.”

Genesis 1:27 says God created us male and female. “She” was a man despite the physical changes he made to his body. Since he claimed to be a Christian, we decided to speak with him about living such a lifestyle while professing to follow Christ.

A Christian friend of ours was angry with us saying:

“How can you think of calling ‘her’ a ‘him’? How can you think of confronting ‘her’ about this? This is so unloving!”

I think her sentiments capture the way a number of people feel about confronting sin. Continue reading The best way to counsel believers in sin

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The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingIn Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Last post, 3 Truths About Judgingdiscussed what this verse is not saying: judging is wrong. So what is it saying? The primary rule for interpreting Scripture is to look at context. Let the Bible be the commentary on the Bible. Matthew 7:2 says:

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 

We will be judged with the same standard we use with others

If you judge someone for doing something, you better make sure you don’t do it. If you judge people for:

  • Lying, you better not lie
  • Losing their tempers, you better not lose your temper
  • Being late late, you better be on time
  • Watching or listening to things they shouldn’t, you better not watch or listen to anything compromising
  • Gossiping, you better not gossip
  • Not serving, you better be a servant

There’s nothing wrong with saying something is sin, but there is something wrong with saying something is sin while committing the same sin yourself. It’s similar to Romans 2:1: Continue reading The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

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Avoiding Painful Decisions

2 Samuel 11Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - Life Changing Decisions is probably one of the most familiar chapters in Scripture, because it recounts David’s sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. Something that really stands out to me is the way David’s decisions changed the trajectory of his entire life.

The last verse of 2 Samuel 10 says, “And when all the kings who were servants to Hadadezer saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and served them. So the Syrians were afraid to help the people of Ammon anymore.”

This verse is significant not so much because of what it says, but because of what it represents. This is the pinnacle of both David’s reign and life. Everything will change after this. While David’s life was previously characterized by victories and triumphs, now it will be characterized by pain and loss. David spent much of the rest of his life moving from one horrible situation to the next.

Certain decisions change the course of our lives 

Following David’s repentance Nathan told him, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam 12:13b). This reveals that, yes, we can be forgiven. Yes, God might be gracious. But our lives on this side of heaven might never be the same. Continue reading Avoiding Painful Decisions

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Do we grieve over our sin?

Do we grieve over our sin?
Do we grieve over our sin?

A previous post laid a foundation for understanding the Beatitudes. Then we considered the first two Beatitudes: spiritual poverty and spiritual hunger. The third, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21b) led to a discussion about grief over the sin around us. While we should be grieved by the sin around us, the more important issue is, do we grieve over our sin?

A love for God demands we grieve over our sin. The Amplified says, Blessed are you who weep now [over your sins and repent].”

While I don’t want to minimize sinning, the truly important issue is how we respond when we sin. We’ve all seen people fall into one of two categories:

  • People who sin and couldn’t care less.
  • People who sin and are genuinely grieved and broken over what they’ve done.

The latter is “godly sorrow [that] produces repentance” versus “worldly sorrow [that] produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). This is the grief Jesus said leads to blessing: “You shall laugh.” Continue reading Do we grieve over our sin?

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Am I saved? Six tests to know!

Am I saved? We should know the answer!
Am I saved? We should know the answer!

“Am I saved?”

This is one of the most important questions we can ever ask. This is why 2 Corinthians 13:5 commands us: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus made it clear many people are deceived about their salvation:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Here are six ways to do that!

Test 1: Spiritual fruit.

While works don’t save, they are one of the strongest evidences of being saved. I’m amazed by the number of people confident in salvation that lacks fruit. Could be the salvation of a parent, child, sibling, or even their own. Three times James said, “faith without works is dead” (2:17, 20, 26).

Test 2: Interest in spiritual activities.

Continue reading Am I saved? Six tests to know!

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Temptation Often Comes Back Stronger

Temptation often comes back stronger

The past two Sundays we’ve been looking at the story of the old prophet and the man of God in 1 Kings 13. Here are the sermons:

In the chapter, God sent a prophet – repeatedly called “man of God” – to confront the idolatry King Jeroboam introduced to the nation (the golden calves in 1 Kin 12:25-33). The Lord told the man of God, You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came” (1 Kin 13:9, 17). After the prophet received this command he was repeatedly tempted to disobey it (verses 7, 15, 18). It’s similar to what we experience: God gives us commands through His Word and we’re repeatedly tempted to disobey them.

But one of the other realities is the temptation often comes back stronger…

First, the old prophet said, “Come home with me and eat bread” (v. 15). The man of God resisted, but then the old prophet said, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water’” (v. 18). The second temptation was much stronger and more convincing than the first.

There are a number of similarities between the man of God and Balaam (in Num 22:1-21):

  • They were both prophets.
  • They were both given commands directly from God:
    • The man of God was commanded not to eat or drink (1 Kin 13:9, 17).
    • Balaam was commanded, “You shall not go with Balak; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Num 22:12).
  • They were both tempted to disobey the commands God gave them.
  • The were both tempted in similar ways:
    • Balaam was tempted to go with Balak.
    • The man of God was tempted to go with the old prophet.
  • And just like with the man of God, the second temptation Balaam experienced was much stronger and more convincing than the first…

First Balak said, “Please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me.” (Num 22:6). Balaam resisted (v. 13) and the second temptation: “Balak again sent princes, MORE NUMEROUS and MORE HONORABLE than before and they said to Balaam, ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; for I WILL CERTAINLY HONOR YOU GREATLY, and I WILL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY to me. Therefore PLEASE COME, curse this people for me’” (Num 22:15-17).

The final – and most tragic – similarity is Balaam finally went with Balak and it had terrible consequences for him, and the man of God finally went with the old prophet and it had terrible consequences for him.

The lesson for us: temptation often comes back stronger, and we need to be sure to resist it.

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Fasting in Response to Sin?

Fasting in response to sin

Yesterday’s sermon briefly discussed restitution and whether it’s an appropriate response to sin. This got me thinking about other responses to sin (besides the most obvious: repentance), and in particular, fasting. If you’d like a more detailed discussion of fasting please listen to these two sermons I preached:

  1. 3/30/14 “When you fast…”
  2. 4/6/14 Fasting and Food

For now I just want to discuss the two instances in Scripture of people fasting following sin…

The first situation involves – believe it or not – King Ahab, one of the wickedest men in the Old Testament. He learned he was going to be judged by God and “He tore his clothes…and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. [God said], ‘Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days.’” (1 Kin 21:27-29).

The second situation involves one of the wickedest groups of people in the Old Testament: the Ninevites. When they learned they were going to be judged it says, “[They] believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jon 3:5, 10).

In both situations the people’s actions clearly pleased God, but it’s important to know it wasn’t their fasting that moved God:

  • In Ahab’s case it was his grieving and humility that delayed judgment.
  • With the Ninevites it was their mourning and repentance that brought God’s forgiveness.

The real question is whether fasting is an appropriate response to sin for us, Church Age Believers? The answer is…maybe. While it seemed to be pleasing to God in the Old Testament, we don’t see it commanded, encouraged, or even modeled in the New Testament as an appropriate response to sin. The closest verse would be Jesus’ words about fasting when mourning: “The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:35). If mourning is an appropriate time to fast, and you happen to be mourning over your sin, then it could be appropriate to fast too. For many people if they’re really upset about what they did, they probably don’t feel like eating anyway.

Finally, I think it’s very important to point out this isn’t penance. You don’t fast to be forgiven. Forgiveness only comes from what Jesus has done, and not from anything we could do.

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The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture

The Gospel is explained financially in Scripture by using words accounting terms. The best way to appreciate the beauty that takes place when believers put their faith in Christ is by understanding these words. Let’s take a look at each of them!

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Sin Debt

Because of our sins, we have a huge amount of sin debt against God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:12 He encouraged them to say, “Forgive us our debts.” In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the man doesn’t have a huge criminal record, but he does have a huge amount of debt. The servant pleaded with the king for mercy. In Matthew 18:27 it says, “The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” The forgiveness of the man’s debt pictured the forgiveness of his sins.

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Ransom and Redemption

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre Gospel is explained financiallyA ransom is something paid to cancel or erase a person’s debt. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Paul said, “Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6).

When someone pays the ransom for another’s debt, it’s known as redemption. The individual who pays the ransom is known as a redeemer. Titus 2:14 says, “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” Peter discussed what was required to cancel our sin debt and he said we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18, 19).

The Gospel Is Explained Financially: Imputation of Sin and Righteousness

“Impute” is accounting term referring to moving assets from one side of a ledger to the other. The Greek word for impute is logizomai, and it occurs forty-one times in Scripture. Almost half of those times it occurs in Romans, and of those nineteen times, eleven times it occurs in chapter 4! Just like 1 Corinthians 13 is the Love Chapter, Romans 4 is the Imputation Chapter. Continue reading The Gospel Is Explained Financially in Scripture