Discerning Soul and Spirit

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The word of God we learn here is:

  • Living
  • Active
  • Very Sharp, but how sharp?

It can:

  • Pierce to the division of soul and spirit
  • Pierce to the division of joints and marrow

But what does that all mean?

The word of God is so living, active and sharp that it can discern my thoughts and my intentions.

There are lots of ideas on what it means to discern between soul and spirit, but I believe what the writer is saying is that the word of God can discern what is from me (the soul of man, who I am) from God (the spirit of a man, who God is). The word of God helps me discern what is God’s voice, and what is my voice. My will versus God’s will.

Our hearts are deceitful above all things, but God knows our heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We can convince ourselves that something is the right path, but we are speaking from our own passions, instead of listening to God’s voice.

The word of God is there to help us discern what is impossible to otherwise discern. What is from me, and what is from God? How do I know if I am following my own will or God’s will? The answers are in God’s word.

and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:10)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
(Proverbs 28:26)

The Attacks Of The Devil

The Israelites never saw it coming!  By the time they realized what happened 24,000 souls were dead, Numbers 25:1-2.  Things seemed to be going well for Israel, but all of that would change.  How did this happen?  The devil attacked them.  He used Balaam and Balak to help God’s people to fall, Numbers 31:16.  The devil wants to defeat us, 1 Peter 5:8.  Sexual immorality is just one way that the devil will attempt to beat us.

Let me give you four other tactics that the devil has used against the church in the first century that he will use against us.  Let’s also consider how God’s people overcame those attacks.

    1. FEAR FACTOR:  Satan wanted to silence God’s people from speaking about Jesus, Acts 4:1-4; 5:17-23, 33, 40-42; 7:54-58.
    2. FAKE FACTOR:  Sadly, the devil achieved his mission with two Christians, Ananias, and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-5.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  They were fakers.  While the devil won a battle, he had not won the war.  The people of God continued in their pursuit of spreading the good news, Acts 5:12-14.  They continued and so did the devil with his attacks.
    3. FUSS FACTOR:  The devil’s opportunity came in Acts 6:1-3.  Some complaints arose.  Certainly, the brethren would devour one another.  However, the devil’s plan didn’t work, Acts 6:7.
    4. FALSE FACTOR:  A controversy in the church occurred regarding salvation, Acts 15:1-11.  Some Jews believed the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved.  The truth prevailed.  God’s people prevailed.  But how did they do it?  Here’s how.

They kept their focus on Jesus.

    1. This is how they overcame the fear factor.  They prayed for boldness to stand firm during persecution, Acts 4:29; 5:40-41.
    2. This is how they overcame the fake factor.  The punishment that Ananias and Sapphira received was death.  Discipline was given.  It had an impact among the brethren, Acts 5:11.  Discipline is necessary today.  Being honest is still necessary today.
    3. This is how they overcame the fuss factor, Acts 6:1-6.  The apostles were concerned about God’s work.  They devised a plan to preserve unity.  It worked!
    4. This is how they overcame the false factor.  They stood on the apostles’ doctrine, Acts2:42. This must be our attitude.  The devil never stops his attack toward God’s people, Luke 4:13.  Therefore, we must always be on the defense.

Responsibilities, Expectations, Consequences

 10 For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit… (1 Peter 3:10-18).

Our children are little people and just like us big people, they have their own personality, make their own choices, have their own desires, etc.  I say this because sometimes I forget that as much as I want to protect my children, see them not make the same mistakes I did, always go the right way, not hurt…these are not realistic.  Our children, like us, have to make their own way and WILL make their own way.  Our hope is that we will provide them a good example, teach them to keep Jesus close and to pray without ceasing and allow God to work in their lives.

God has always given His people specific guidance in the form of His laws.  It is His will for us.

The Israelites had the Law of Moses and their obedience to the laws of Moses set them apart and their obedience would point them and others to Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 4:1-8).

As Christians, we have the Law of Christ and our obedience sets us apart and will point us and others to Jehovah.  (1 Peter 1:13-25).

In teaching our children God’s Law…that found both in the Old and the New Covenant, we provide them the opportunity to understand what is expected of them, their responsibility and the reward for their obedience and/or the consequences of their rebellion.  We cannot make them choose obedience and as much as I would like to duct tape my children to their bed or hide them in a bubble, that is not how our Father raises us and is not how we will raise our children.  Our Abba Father wants us to choose Him and if we abide in His Son…loving Him by keeping His commandments…He will work in our lives…even in the times that hurt.  The same is true for our children and if we believe that and talk to Him about it…we will find comfort, confidence and hope.

God has provided us the roadmap for our lives and the guideposts to ensure we know we are on the right path.  He has taught us our responsibilities, His expectations, and the consequences if we go astray.  Our prayer…God help us to learn your way, believe your word, and model it in our lives and teach your way to our children.  With God in their lives…they have no better Father.

Sweeter than honey

A special thanks to Shane and Andy for writing the articles for the Men’s Daily Briefing for the last two crazy months. God bless you two for your help. Shane will be taking over managing of the Men’s Daily Briefing, and for that I’m so thankful. I’m looking forward to continuing writing and helping Shane and others produce helpful articles for your daily encouragement!

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
(Psalms 19:10)

We recently harvested our first batch of honey from our hives. Wow! What an incredible experience! God is so amazing in what He designed, especially in the honeybee. This little creature is so fascinating in how it builds hives, makes wax, makes honey, pollinates flowers, communicates with each other, etc. Just incredible.

As we were harvesting the honey, we were discussing how God’s word is compared to honey in the Scripture (see the above Psalm). The more I thought about it, the more I began to understand a few more reasons why God’s word is compared to honey.

Honey is sweet, I mean really sweet! Honey is nourishing and has healing properties. You don’t make the honey, the bees make it. We can’t come along later and brag about how we made honey. Those honeybees might come after you for that one! Also, honey lasts a long, long, long time! It does not go bad. In fact archaeologists have found 3,000 year old honey in the Pyramids in Egypt that was still edible!

God’s word is just like honey, except it is sweeter, more nourishing, more healing, and it lasts forever. And you and I had nothing to do with it. The word came because of the power of God, and we enjoy the benefits of God’s work just like we can enjoy in the benefits of honey!

Thank you God, for making a little creature like the honeybee that while it lives for just a short time on this earth makes such a wonderful substance for us to enjoy for the short time we are here on this earth. But even more that that Lord, thank you for your living, sweet, healing, nourishing and ever-abiding word that lives within us.

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

A Word Fitly Spoken

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
(Proverbs 25:11)

Have you had someone give you a specific compliment that pointed out an area where you really do well in? How did that make you feel? Didn’t it make you want to take on the world?

Today is just a quick thought that we should always be looking for where people shine in life and make sure they hear us say it. Those “words fitly spoken” are truly like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Most importantly, men, let’s do this in our marriages. It is too easy and very destructive to find the problems. How about we look for where our wives shine and praise them up and down for it?

Listen to the Messiah speak in Isaiah 50:4,

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

He had the prayer of the learned, so that He could “sustain with a word him who is weary.” Your few words of encouragement have that much power! Pointing out the talents and strengths of another may help that person be renewed in strength. Sometimes all we see in ourselves is the problems, the weaknesses and the lack of abilities. Somebody else can help us see more realistically and with it will revive our spirits!

What are your boundaries?

Our daughter was having a conversation with someone the other day about worship, and the person in this discussion (with all good intentions) said that the veil has been taken away in our worship. His thought was that we have all kinds of freedom now in how we worship God.

Her response to him was a simple question, “What are your boundaries, then?” Great question! If we can decide how we worship God, and there is this freedom in Christ, are there any boundaries in how we worship Jesus? Does the freedom in Christ open the door to anything and everything?

We can look in the religious world, and see that the doors have been blown wide open as to what churches find acceptable. But again, what are the boundaries, and who determines them?

Jesus answered this for us. He says plainly that, “Yes, there are boundaries. I set them, and you must stay within them.” Look at the following words from Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:21-24)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
(Luke 6:46-48)

Even in the New Testament churches as we live under the grace and liberty of Jesus, we have boundaries and they are set by Jesus Himself.

Break up your fallow ground

Jeremiah 4:3 – For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”

Hosea 10:12 – Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Yesterday, I preached from Mark 4, and we looked at the parable of the sower. In that very familiar story, we see four different types of soil, and four very different responses to the preaching of the word.

But here are a couple of questions: Am I predestined to be a certain type of soil? If I am a rocky soil or a thorny/weedy soil, can that condition ever change? Can a person be all four types of soil in his or her life?

I think the above passages from Jeremiah and Hosea answer those questions very clearly. Both prophets use the word picture of ground that was once plowed, but has now sat uncultivated. Weeds and thorns have crept in, and because of laziness and negligence, the good seed was not sown. The people of Israel and Judah did not take care of their hearts (soil), but they had a choice in the matter. They, with repentance and God’s help, could change that condition.

You see, these men were one kind of soil, and God calls them to be another. If you will look in Mark 4, Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples to “listen” and to “be careful how they hear.” The hearers have a good deal of choice and control in what kind of soil they will be.

No, you are not predestined to be a certain kind of soil. You with God’s help can remove the thorns and weeds (distractions of the world). You can remove the rocks and create a depth of character and faith that will endure the trials.

One final thought, if you are honest, can you see times in your life where you have been all 4 types of soil? Haven’t you seen times when God’s teaching went in one ear and out the other? Other times you sprung up quickly and happily but withered during the first test of that teaching? Haven’t you found your heart and soul choked by cares of this world? But then there are the times that God’s word connects in your heart and you really see the fruit growing over time. Yes, we all have been all four kinds of soil in our lives. It’s our choice today what kind of soil we will be. How will we listen to the word today?

Just as He told them

And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:16)

Just as He told them. The phrase just struck me the other day while reading Mark 14. I then branched out to find all kinds of occasions where Jesus showed that His word was to be trusted.

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”
(Luke 22:35)

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
(John 13:19)

And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
(John 14:29)

But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
(John 16:4)

See, I have told you beforehand.
(Matthew 24:25)

This is what Jesus, being God, did for the people of the Old Testament as well (Isaiah 44:7-8; 46:8-11; 48:3-6). He declared the end from the beginning, laying out exactly how things were going to go, and we can trust that when God says something is going to happen, it will happen.

We as humans really have a hard time with this. Nobody on earth has this kind of power to foresee exactly how things are going to turn out. From weather forecasts, to stock market predictions, to presidential polls that turn out to be wrong. Even our parents, bosses, coaches and other leaders in our lives say things are going to happen and then for some reason they don’t. On top of that a lot of us just don’t keep our word, and leads to further distrust.

So along comes Jesus and says, “Here’s how it’s going to turn out,” and time after time after time every time it turns out just like He told us.

We need to be reminded of that. What God promises will happen. What Jesus told us in advance will happen, even if the circumstances, our environment, people around us, and even our own brains say the exact opposite. Trust Jesus.

Looking Intently in the Mirror

Thank you to Nathan Booth for getting the website techie stuff sorted out this morning. Sorry for the delay in sending out this article.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1:21-25)

The word here is described as:

  • A seed implanted in the heart.
  • A mirror that reveals and exposes your character.
  • The perfect law of liberty.

We also see how we are to be doers and not hearers only.

  • If we hear but don’t do, we are deceiving ourselves. If we plant a good seed in the ground, but fail to remove all the weeds competing for the same resources, then the good seed is not going to be productive. That’s why James says to get rid of the filthiness and wickedness. Only then can the implanted word “save” our souls.
  • If we hear but don’t do, we are like one who looks intently into a mirror but then walks away and forgets what the mirror told him. The mirror tells it like it is, and I do not always like looking in the mirror. If the mirror tells me I need to lose weight and take better care of myself, what do I do with that info? Do I walk into the kitchen and eat a pound of bacon? You see, James tells us that studying the Bible can actually end up deceiving us. Not that the Bible deceives us, but that we deceive ourselves thinking we did something great by merely studying the Bible. So I read the book of James…great! What did I do with the information I studied in James? That’s what matters!
  • If we hear but don’t do, we will not be blessed. If we hear and do and “persevere,” then James says we will be blessed in our “doing.” I love how James calls the God’s Word the “perfect law of liberty.” LAW and LIBERTY don’t fit well together in our thinking. It is like chocolate and broccoli! We want to think liberty is being able to do whatever we want. Freedom from restrictions, absence of restraint, nobody telling us what to do, no inhibitions, no rules…that’s freedom! That’s actually slavery, because that’s where it ends up. With that mindset, we become enslaved to debt, pleasure, substances, people, etc. God’s rules, His perfect Law, brings liberty. Freedom is in following Him. Liberty is in being liberated from the chains of selfishness and lust.