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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Pennies or Quarters - Earthly or Heavenly Treasure?

Pennies or Quarters - Earthly or Heavenly Treasure? Matthew 6:19-20
Small children will trade a quarter for three shiny pennies. They’re too naïve to realize which has more value.

Unfortunately, we Christians do the same whenever we give up heavenly treasures for earthly ones (Matthew 6:19-20; 1Timothy 6:18-19).

We’re trading spiritual wealth for a few shiny pennies when we:
  • Take the easy way instead of the right way
  • Avoid an opportunity to share our faith
  • Focus on worldly goals
  • Keep our mouths shut when Biblical values are mocked
  • Overlook some of God’s commands
Remember the poor widow who sacrificially gave up her last few pennies? She was trading them for much greater treasure in heaven (Luke 21:1-4). 

Remember the Centurion who didn’t feel he even deserved to have Jesus in his home? He was trading earthly honor for heavenly honor (Matthew 8:5-13). 

Remember those “who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35)? 

Let’s think before we reach for those shiny pennies, dear Christians.
I encourage you to check out the Bible Love Notes archive of devotions about Money and Things.

Bible Study
Pennies or Quarters - Earthly or Heavenly Treasure? Matthew 6:19-20
When we read Hebrews 11 about men and women of faith, we see what it means to store up treasure in heaven:

1. It’s trusting what we don’t see.

11:1-2: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

2. It’s believing in intentional beauty in a culture that believes in accidental beauty.

11:3-4: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 

3. It’s giving God our best. 

11:4: By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

4. It’s believing God sees what we do and rewards us if we seek Him.

11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

5. It’s believing the impossible.

11:7: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

6. It’s believing in the future promises. 

Pennies or Quarters - Earthly or Heavenly Treasure? Matthew 6:19-20
11:8-13: By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

7. It's living counterculture. 

11:14-16: People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

8. It’s growing from testing and trials.

11:17-19: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

9. It’s believing God can give us a future in spite of our past. 

11:31: By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

10. It’s about earthly victories, healing, and rewards. 

11:32-35: And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

11. It’s about hardship, suffering, and sometimes paying the ultimate earthly price.

11:35-40: There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

copyright 2017, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Male and Female God Created Us

What the Bible Says About Transgenderism
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.(Genesis 1:27; 5:2Mark 10:6).  

Who would have thought this verse would become controversial?  

If we truly have compassion for mankind, we'll accept Biblical teaching and pray for people trapped in the harmful sins of transgenderism(1) and transvestism.

Our gender is no accident:
Psalm 139:13-16: "you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body..."

We damage our souls when we defy God's choices:
Isaiah 45:9: "What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!'" (also Romans 9:20)  

We have different personalities, interests, skills, and mannerisms. Not every man need be ruggedly masculine nor every woman lacy feminine. But God assigns gender, and He knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1).  
(1)This devotion is not discussing ambiguous genitalia (atypical genitalia), which is a birth defect where a child is born with genitalia that are not clearly defined. This devotion is discussing people who are clearly born with male or female genitalia but claim they are meant to be the opposite sex or who claim they are neither or both male and female.  

For more:
What Does the Bible Say About Transgenderism?  
What Does the Bible Say About Transvestism?  

As Christians, we know that the most powerful voice for any subject is Scripture. But there are also some strong voices in the secular world that still consider transgenderism a mental disorder that needs to be treated, not enabled. Perhaps they will be silenced as time goes on, but they are worth noting:
John Hopkins Psychiatrist on Transgenderism
Regret Isn't Rare
This article, from a Christian perspective, is written about a man who had a sex change and later became a Christian:
Walt's Story

Bible Study

1. The most loving thing Christians can do is accept and defend Biblical truths. 

We don't do anyone a favor by remaining silent about damaging choices, no matter how strongly they are defended and promoted in our culture. 

Proverbs 24:11-12: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

A compelling quote:
Dr. McHugh also reported that there are “misguided doctors” who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer “puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.” Such action comes “close to child abuse,” said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will “abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated ….” Some children, before the age of puberty, are now getting sex change surgical procedures that cannot be reversed. John Hopkins Psychiatrist

What the Bible Says About Transgenderism
2. Our culture sees it as progress when new forms of sexual expression are accepted and promoted. 

But it is actually the decline of mankind similar to what is described in Romans 1:18-32.

Romans 1:24: Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

3. The Old Testament clearly forbids men dressing like women or women dressing like men.

Deuteronomy 22:5: A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this. 

The New Testament also contrasts appropriate dress based on gender (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).

Some Christians believe these passages prohibit a woman from wearing pants or require a woman to wear a head covering. Obviously, we should respect different interpretations of this law, but the spirit of the law is that a man should not present himself as a woman nor a woman present herself as a man. 

Transvestism involves sexual arousal from wearing clothing of the opposite sex, and has long been considered a mental disorder and a sexual perversion. But transgenderism takes this perversion to a deeper level - it involves permanently altering sexual organs through surgery and hormones and having same-sex relationships. (See what God says about same-sex relationships HERE).

4. We cannot deny that God has assigned our gender, and we cannot reassign it. Surgeries and hormones may make us look like the opposite sex, but we will always maintain our birth gender.

Psalm 139:13-16: You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 

This is another area where we can trust God or trust ourselves, and many people have found out too late that they should have trusted God.

Walt Heyer had surgery to become a woman, but now has become a Christian and accepted his manhood. He seeks to save others from his tragic sin. I encourage you to read Walt's Story (also linked above).

copyright 2017, Gail Burton Purath, Bite Size Bible Study

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Did God Really Say That About Slapping Faces?

Did God Really Say That About Letting Someone Slap Us? Mt 5:38-48
This is a tricky passage. 

We must handle it with all of Scripture in view.(1)

To prevent excessive punishments, an Old Testament law required an "eye for an eye."

In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus says that law no longer applies.

Not only should we avoid excessive punishments, we should avoid all forms of personal revenge (Matthew 7:12; Romans 12:19). 

We should pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).(2)

But we will take this passage too far if we don't see it as part of the whole message of Scripture. 

Jesus isn't telling us to ignore or embrace injustice.

Christians must speak and act against oppression, mistreatment, and injustice (Psalm 82:4; Proverbs 24:11), using appropriate channels (Romans 13:1-5).

We can also speak up when we're mistreated. Jesus did it and so did the Apostle Paul (John 18:22-23; Acts 16:35-37; Acts 23:1-11; Acts 22:25).

Sometimes, however, we should give up our own rights for the sake of our witness or the sake of others (1 Corinthians 6:6-7; Philippians 2:3-4).  

Our sins brought Christ injustice. We can bear "slaps" in His strength (Philippians 4:13).  
(1) (2 Timothy 2:15). 
(2) Jesus didn’t abolish "the law and the prophets" -Matthew 5:17. He fulfilled the law and took us out from under its control (Romans 6:14;Galatians 3:11).

Bible Study

Did God Really Say That About Letting Someone Slap Us? Mt 5:38-48
1. Read the passage carefully and list the type of actions it commands:
Matthew 5:38-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

All of these commands need to be combined with the full counsel of Scripture so we can understand God's will (Romans 12:2). For example (v.42), it would be wrong to give to someone who asks for money to feed their addiction (Matthew 18:7) and wrong to give to someone who is too lazy to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This verse commands us to help those with genuine needs, not supply them with luxuries (Romans 12:20).

When we are called to love our enemies (v.43-48), this does not mean we have an affection for them. It means we treat them humanely as we wish to be treated. This is a type of love we can have for all men - even those we don't like. (See Trojan Horse Lie - Loving Self First). 

2. Note that Jesus spoke up when His oppressors slapped Him. He did not take personal revenge on them. In fact, He prayed for their forgiveness from the Cross. "Turning the other cheek" doesn't mean doing and saying nothing.

John 18:22-23: When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”  

Read one of the following incidents where Paul also stood up for his rights.

Acts 16:35-37; Acts 23:1-11; Acts 22:25 

copyright 2017, Gail Burton Purath, Bite Size Bible Study