What are you doing today? What are you doing this summer? Where will you move when you retire? How do you answer questions like these? No matter how we answer them specifically, as followers of Christ, we should preface those answers with, “If the Lord allows.” This is how Paul talked in 1Corinthians 16. IN this chapter Paul is laying out for his readers his traveling plans. After listing a few places he intends to go he tells the Corinthians that he desires to spend some time with them, “if the Lord permits.”(v.7) Paul recognized that no matter how much he planned ultimately all things would be determined by the sovereign will of the God he served. It would be wise for us to live under the same recognition. This does not mean that we necessarily have to make sure we start or end every sentence of our intentions with “If the Lord wills”, but even if we don’t we need to at least be thinking it. It might not, however, be a bad idea to make sure we say it often. There is something to be said for disciplining ourselves to talk Biblically. Lets do it!, if the Lord wills! J
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I fear that, at times, we do not take sin seriously enough. We minimize the danger we face in this war of the soul. Jesus told us that it was better to gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands if it would prevent us from sinning with these instruments of our body. (see Matthew 5:27-30 for instance) Job was no such individual. He took the war against sin very seriously. So seriously, that in Job 31:1 he says, “I made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”
What did he mean by that? Listen to what one commentator from a couple of hundred years ago said about this:
“He made a bargain with his eyes that he would allow them the pleasure of beholding the light of the sun and the glory of God shining in the visible creation, provided that they would never [gaze at anything that might cause impure desires] and if they did, they must [repent] for it with much tears. (Matthew Henry)
If we want to keep our hearts pure we must guard our eyes and never let them stray on forbidden paths, not even for a moment! Today, make a pact with your eyes! Make them promise to look only at that which would be pleasing to the Lord, and then hold them to their promise!
Job 32 introduces us to a new character to the story of Job, a young man by the name of Elihu. For 31 chapters this chap has sat stone cold silent. He has listened to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar wrongly accuse Job of sin. He has listened to Job claim his innocence, despair his life, and come close to making God look like an ogre. He has listened and sat completely silent. Now in chapter 32 he speaks, and he speaks for 5 chapters. Commentators are divided on exactly how to take this young, fiery fellow.
One thing, however, is certain. Elihu does not get rebuked by the Lord as do the rest of Job’s friends in chapter 42. What he says is correct! In his speech he rebukes his elders for how they have misspoken. What can we learn from this guy? One of the main lessons we can learn is that gray hair does not necessarily make one wise. Elihu, the youngest, of the bunch is the only one who gets things right! All of his elders have misspoken in some way (even Job). This should be a lesson to the old. Do not dismiss youth just because they are young. Listen to them. They may have drunk long at the wells of the word and have some very significant things to say. There is also a lesson for the young here. Do not be quick to rebuke your elders. Elihu let his elders each give three speeches. He sat silent for 31 chapters before opening his mouth. He was reluctant to speak. Nevertheless if the truth is not being proclaimed by those who should proclaim it, then young person stand up and proclaim it! Rebuke those who speak not truth, but do so in love and as a last resort.
Here is a short devotion, but a very important one nonetheless. The first part of Exodus 15 is a song about how the people of Israel were delivered from slavery and the tyranny of Pharaoh. They sang of God’s mighty deliverance for them. One question. When was the last time you sang of His deliverance on your behalf?
God has blessed us tremendously through the blood of His Son. It is indescribable how infinitely valuable His redemption of us is. He has ransomed us out of darkness and into His marvelous light! The Exodus story is a beautiful picture of this redemption. In fact in 1 Corinthians 10:11 Paul says that the things that happened to the children of Israel were to serve as an example for us. In other words the things that God did for the children of Israel in the Old Testament have significant bearing on our lives 4,000 years later. That is amazing!
One of the things we can learn from the children of Israel in Exodus 16 is that we, like them, are monumental forgetters. It is almost comical how quickly we find these people grumbling against God right after He has brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The people grumble because they quickly forget. Moses had told them in chapter 14 that all they had to do was, in my paraphrase, “shut up and see how God saves you!” (14:14) That is exactly what God did. He split the waters of the Red Sea and brought about a mighty deliverance. But as soon as these folks start having hunger pains they are ready to head back to their lives of slavery. Why is this? Why did they act like this? Why do we act like this with our grumblings when the heat gets turned up a bit? How is it that people who have seen the grace of God slide so easily into grumbling and disobedience?
I think there is really one fundamental answer to these questions. People who did what the Israelites did on the heels of the Exodus and people who do what we do today when we grumble against God are people who think that God exists to serve their needs. They are ultimate, not God. They are the center. Their desires are what must be fulfilled and if these desires go unmet they are ready to ditch any one or any “god” until they find one to meet those needs. Let us beware. While God, in a sense, serves us He does not do so ultimately. He serves us in saving us and daily sustaining us in an untold myriad of ways. But this service is not because we are the masters. In fact, the total opposite is true. He serves us this way because He is the Master, and the goal of this service is to cause us to come to the place where we realize He is the center and all the planets of our passions must revolve around Him!
In many ways, if you have been reading Job 34 and 35, you might get the impression that Elihu sounds a lot like Jobs other three friends. If you read closely, however, you will find that this is not the case. The difference between Elihu and the other three and the reason why he is not rebuked by God at the end of the story, like them is this: Elihu leaves room for mystery.
In all of his talk Elihu recognizes that some things God has simply not revealed to men and never will (see Deuteronomy 29:29). In fact this kind of talk is similar to some of the things God Himself will say to Job in just a few chapters. We are not meant to understand everything fully. Indeed our finite minds will never be able to fully understand the hidden purposes of God! God never intended us to have this full understanding, and that fact is one of the main purposes of the book of Job. This truth has massive implications for our life. This means that God wants something more from us than just our evaluation and understanding (though He wants this as well). God wants our childlike trust and our wholehearted obedience in the face of the unknown. This is what God is teaching us in this book. Have you learned that yet? Keep reading and allow the Holy Spirit the drive that truth home on your heart with every page!
I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was in Zambia driving down a dirt road with one of my missionary partners and another Zambian believer. We were on our way to scout out a new village where the gospel had never been preached. We wanted to see if we could discover where God was already at work among the peoples of this small fishing community. This little village sat on the edge of a huge lake and would make a perfect launching point for villages all along the shore of that lake. It was a very important trip. On the truck ride there I was working on some of my scripture memory verses. My missionary partner saw my note card and asked me what verse I was chewing on. I told him it was 2 Corinthians 6:3. “We give no offense in anything that the ministry may not be blamed.”
This is one of the many passages in which Paul makes plain that he did all he could to not put an obstacle in front of someone that might prevent them giving the gospel a fair hearing. Even if it meant surrendering some of his rights he was ready to give those rights up for the sake of the gospel.
When we reached the town we found that the people were divided in their opinion of us. Some received us warmly and heartily invited us to come back. Others thought that, because of some misconceptions of Baptists, that we might be demon worshippers. Well, as we moved through the village one of the fishermen asked if he could take us on a tour of the lake for a small fee. We agreed and took the tour, which was pretty much uneventful except for seeing a few hippos. When we finished the tour I reached in my pocket to pay the man. As soon as I gave the man the money my partner said, “Wait David, I already paid the guy.” When I asked for my money back the man refused to give it back. In other words he ripped us off! I started to get mad and demand my money back when my partner looked at me and said, “What was that verse you were memorizing earlier?” Immediately God smote my heart.
As soon as he said it I gave up my attempts to get my money back (a measly $4). I am glad to say that that village now has a strong church in it that is reaching out to others. My partner was able to return and plant a church there. Up until a few months ago he and his family were there making sure that it grew. They have now left it in the hands of godly and capable Zambian church leaders. I have often wondered what would have happened if I would have insisted on having my four bucks back. It could have meant that the hearts of those people would have closed for good. I don’t know. All I know is this. God wants us to be willing to give up our rights if it means that people will be more open to hearing of His Son. Are you still clinging to any “rights”?
Luke 22 is the place in Luke’s gospel where we have the story of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper or Communion. This is a ceremony that we still celebrate today in our church, but have you ever wondered why we do it so much ?We do it often because Jesus told us to. He never said how often, but in the words, “Do this in remembrance of me” (v.19) He intended for His church to practice the ceremony habitually. Why? The answer is simple.
In part we discussed this in the devotion for March 5. We are a people who forget often. We are hardwired to drift from the center and start focusing on secondary issues that don’t matter that much. This is why the ceremony is needed and why we need to observe it often. We need a constant reminder of what is central in our life, namely, the broken body and shed blood of Jesus that makes us right with Holy God! Don’t wait until the next time we observe this supper as a church body. Refocus your mind’s attention and heart’s affection today on the substitutionary death of our Lord! Everything else is secondary.
Exodus 20 records the “Ten Commandments”. The nuts and bolts of God’s moral law for mankind. There was a time when every school boy and girl could quote these ten commandments at the drop of a hat. It is sad to say, but today many church leaders could not perform this feat. I say this not merely to shame (though some shame is good if it drives us to the cross) but to encourage. IF you do not know the Ten Commandments the way they are listed in this chapter maybe this poetic rendition will help you:
You shall not have more gods than me (1)
Before no image bow the knee (2)
Take not the name of God in vain (3)
Nor dare the Sabbath to profane (4)
Give both your parents honor due (5)
Take heed that you no murder do (6)
Abstain from thoughts and deeds unclean (7…adultery)
Nor steal, though you are poor and mean (as in weak…. 8)
Nor tell a lie, nor love it (9)
What is your neighbor’s, do not covet! (10)
Nine times out of ten whenever I stand to preach or get ready to open the Bible just to read for myself there is a verse of Scripture that comes to my mind and serves as a prayer for what I am about to do. That verse of scripture is Luke 24:32. “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
This verse is spoken by two followers of Jesus whom He appeared to on the road to a town called Emmaus after His resurrection. At first they did not realize that the man they spoke with was the Lord. Consequently the Lord took the opportunity to unpack everything in the Old Testament that spoke of Him. It must have been amazing. Jesus unpacked the meaning of the Bible to these two men and as a result their hearts were set on fire! That is what I pray will happen to you every time you open the Bible. Jesus still does this by the ministry of the Holy Spirit! Ask Him right now to do so. Say, “Lord Jesus, by the power of your Spirit, would you come and walk with me as I dive into Your word and would you cause my heart to burn while You teach me the Scriptures!! ”That is a prayer God loves to hear and answer.
John 1 is one of the most important chapters of the Bible simply because it teaches so clearly that Jesus is God! Read the first verse slowly, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Then jump to verse 14, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Jesus is God! Big deal, you might say. “What does it matter if I believe that Jesus is God or not. I mean cant I believe that He was a really kind person and miracle worker, but not believe that He was God, and still be saved?” Many people talk like this or believe like this. The answer to that question is, “NO!” If you believe in a Jesus who is not God, then you are not believing the Jesus of the Bible. You are believing a false god, and can therefore, not be saved. Jesus had to be God or else He could not have borne all the wrath that was due to us. Is your vision of Jesus as it should be? Beware of thinking too little of the One who made you!
Do you ever read some parts of the Bible and just think, “what on earth does that have to do with my life?” Its okay, you can be honest in answering that question. If we are truly honest all of us would probably have to say that from time to time the answer to that question is a big fat “yes.” This is not the Bible’s fault but our fault. The truth is that if a person looks long enough, hard enough, and pure enough into any passage of Scripture the Holy Spirit will show in some way how that passage of Scripture relates to life in 2011.
One such passage is in Exodus 23:19: “Do not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Okay, I am pretty sure that no one reading this will ever be tempted to kill a goat and then boil its meat in the same pot that its mothers’ milk is already being heated up in. So do we just skip over this verse and go to something more relevant. Not at all! This verse is very relevant. Remember, “Look long enough, hard enough, and pure enough.”
When reading this verse we must realize that to boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk was not bad in and of itself. What made this practice bad was that this was what all the other pagan peoples that surrounded Israel did as part of their pagan religious rituals. God did not want his people to do anything that looked like pagan worship. God wanted His people to be different. God wanted His people to be separated for Himself. He wanted and still wants His people to be distinct in a good way. So, what would the application of this verse look like today?
Job 42:6 is a bit baffling. In this verse Job says to God, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Why did he repent? I mean for goodness sake he has just spent 41 chapters arguing with his friends over this very fact. They told him he needed to repent and he kept arguing that he was an innocent man. Indeed, God Himself vindicates Job in v.8 when He tells Eliphaz that Job was in the right and the others in the wrong. So why then did Job need to repent?
Well, we need to be clear what Job was repenting of. Job was not repenting of what his “friends” wanted him to. They wanted him to say that he had done some horrible secret sin and God was consequently punishing him for that sin. Job did no such thing and refuses to repent of sin he has not committed. This is not what Job is repenting of in this verse. So what then is he repenting of?
He is repenting of the way he repeatedly demanded that God owes him an explanation! That is what he repents of. Job faced horrendous suffering, and one of the things that made it so horrendous was that the reason for it was so mysterious. There was no good reason why Job should have been suffering this way. That is what baffles Job in this book and he therefore demands an explanation from God. God, however, does not owe Job or us any explanations for what He does. “The secret things belong to the Lord…” (Deut.29:29). God is under no obligation to divulge all of His counsel with us. We should take this to heart. Let us beware of every demanding from our Creator explanations for that which we do not understand. Rather, let us trust that God is good and wise and all-powerful and that He works for the good of those who love Him, always!
None of us like tests. Tests mean that there is a possibility that we might fail what we are being tested in. That is what produces sleepless nights of study, serious study groups, and pre-test jitters. There are, however, some good aspects of tests. Tests, if administered properly, are a good gauge of determining what someone has learned or mastered.
Did you know that the Bible tells us to test ourselves? The test, however, that the Bible calls for is not math or science or even English. The test that the Bible calls us to take is far more serious. 2 Corinthians 13: 5 says that we are to , “Examine yourselves to see whether we are in the faith; Test yourselves. Do you not know that Jesus Christ lives in you? Unless of course you fail the test.” Every one who professes the name of Christ is called to examine his or herself. We are called to look at our lives and see if those lives really do reflect the life of Christ. He lives in all those who truly follow Him and He produces fruit in their lives that is solid evidence and that gives proof that they belong to Him. So give yourself a test today. Does Christ really live in you? I pray that you will not fail this test.
Today’s devotion will build upon yesterday’s. I can imagine someone reading yesterdays devotion and the verse from 2 Corinthians about testing ourselves, and saying something like, “OF course Christ is in me. I go to church every time the doors are open. I read my bible at least 5 or 6 times a week. I even give to stuff at the church from time to time.” Is that answer good enough?
In John 5 Jesus is talking to some very religious people. They tithed so much that they even tithed the vegetables in their garden. They had, probably, the first five books of the Bible memorized. They attended the religious worship services without fail. Yet, despite all of these things Jesus says to them in verse 39, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think that you have eternal life. But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.” How sad indeed! It is possible to be in the Word and not know the Living Word. It is possible to be around God’s people and never know God personally. Test yourself! Examine yourself! Come to Jesus!!
Galatians 2 tells us how Paul stood in the presence of many people and rebuked Peter to his face. Read the chapter for the details, but for now I want to ask, why did he do that? The answer is simple. Verse 14 reads, “When I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel [then I rebuked Peter]” When Peter started acting in a way that said, “In order to be saved you must do something on top of placing your faith in Jesus. “ This type of behavior Paul could not tolerate and he had to rebuke him.
Rebuking someone is not fun. You run the risk of having them misunderstand and sever their friendship with you. Why would Paul do such a thing and take such a risk then? Quite simply, the gospel was at stake. We, as the body of Christ, need each other. We don’t, however, just need each other to lean on in times of trouble. We need others to rebuke us when we start acting or talking or thinking in any way that is out of step with the gospel and we need to rebuke others doing so as well. There are many, many ways we can find ourselves out of step with the gospel. We can easily fall into a rigid legalism (like Peter) that says “unless you do it my way then your not a Christian.” Or we can fall in to a cheap grace mindset that says, “It is not big deal if I live a loose life, God is love and He will forgive me no matter how much I fail Him.” Both extremes, and many other positions in between, need to be rebuked in love. The gospel is at stake in how we live! Let us help each other by encouraging when we need to encourage and rebuking when we need to rebuke.
Again, this devotion will build on yesterday’s. We saw yesterday, that at times we are to rebuke our brother’s and sisters when their behavior is contrary to the clear teaching of the gospel. Today in John 7:7 we see that we are also called to rebuke unbelievers. In this verse Jesus tells His brothers that the reason why the world hated Him was because He testified that it’s (the world’s) works were evil. You see, God is One. He is God over all people, even if most of those people never acknowledge His Lordship in this life. Consequently, this One Holy God has standards that He expects His creatures to meet and live up to. Because all of us are sinful rebels we hate these standards and choose to break God’s requirements in the most vile and evil ways. Jesus understood this and He rebuked the world for such evil.
We are called to do the same. We are called to tell people the “good-news”, but the first part of the “good-news” is the “bad-news” that we are evil. This must be proclaimed. No one can get saved without first realizing just how evil he or she is in his or her rebellion against God. In other words, a person has to get lost before they can get saved, and we must testify to their lostness. Are you doing that? Are you lovingly proclaiming to others their rebellion against a holy God? Here is a good way to know if you are doing that or not. Jesus said that because He made such proclamation that the “world hated Him.” Does the world “hate” you or do you find your self very much at peace and good friends with the world?
Galatians 4:6-7 is a good passage to memorize this week. These verses tell us that, because of God’s redemptive grace, we now have the privilege of addressing God in the most intimate of terms, “ABBA (Daddy)”. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son than an heir through God.” MEMORIZE THIS FOR THE GOOD OF YOUR SOUL THIS WEEK!!!
Do you have a testimony? Every true follower of Christ does. What is your testimony? A testimony is simply a statement of what Christ has done in a person’s life. There is a man in John 9 who gives his testimony to a bunch of religious leaders. This man was blind and Jesus opened his eyes. During his testimony the religious leaders became angry with him because he was too positive about Jesus. They finally said to him, “you were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” (v.34) They said this for two reasons.
First, they thought that since this man was born blind he or his parents must have done some terrible sin (this seemed to be the mentality of that day, for even the disciples thought the same thing…see verse 2). Second, they thought that because this man was a sinner and had not had the proper training he was not in a position to “teach” them. Notice what the man had said to them though, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (v. 26) That is what a testimony is. It does not matter how great a “sinner” you once were (Oh that everyone could see how great his or her sin is!). It does not matter if you have not had formal training in evangelism. Were you once blind? Has Jesus now given you sight? Then you have a testimony…..go and tell it to someone today!
What should we do if a fellow brother or sister in the Lord falls into sin? Should we ignore that person? NO! We should try to restore them back to intimate fellowship with the Lord. Galatians 6:1-4 teaches us that this is what “spiritual” people are to do. In fact it is our duty to bear one another’s burden in this matter. This does not mean we do not rebuke them or call them out in their sin, but we do all of that from a heart of love with restoration always being our goal.
There is a catch to this that verse 4 brings out. Before we do such restoring for believers that have been “caught” in a sin our lives must be right in our relationship with the Lord. This is what Paul means when he says, “but let each one examine his own work…”. This is what Jesus meant when He told us to take the plank out of our eye before we get the speck out of our brother’s (see. Matthew 7:5). When the plank is out, however, we need to get our brother’s speck out. It would be unloving to do anything else!
It would be a strange person indeed who said that he or she loved death. That is not what we usually think of when we think of the things that we love. Proverbs 8:36, however tells us that if we do not find wisdom than this is really what we are saying. IF we do not seek after wisdom we are saying, “I love death” and in fact we are injuring our self. We are committing suicide. So how do we find wisdom? Proverbs returns to this theme over and over. “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (9:10) IF we seek to know the Lord and understand Him properly this is wisdom and this is life. Knowing this should effect what we do with our free time today
The people of Israel were a stiff-necked people. This means that they repeatedly disobeyed the Lord and turned back in their hearts from following after Him. In Exodus 33 God threatens to send them into the promise land but without His presence. Moses is terrified by this possibility. He, therefore, says to the Lord “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” (v.15) I wondered how our lives would be different if this were the mentality we adopted. “Lord if you will not go with me to that party then I will not go.” Or, “Lord if you will not be with me as I pursuer this career path then I will not do it.” The presence of the Lord, to the true believer, is the most valuable treasure one could ever posses. Do not seek to be satisfied with anything else. Do that which would find you in the sweet presence of the Master no matter how hard it may seem.
What is in a name? Most of the times, in the Bible, names had important significance. In many ways this is the same today. Why do we call Spider Man by that name? Because he is a big ole spider guy. Why do we call Super Man, Super Man? Because he has super human powers. People’s name have significance, they typically give meaning to their character.
This is the same with the name of God. IN Exodus 34 God discloses His “Name” to Moses. When He does so it is not what we would typically expect. He starts listing a bunch of different aspects of His character. He says “The Lord, The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the father’s on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (v.6-7) Wow, what a name!!! This is who God is. To know Him is to know Him in these ways.
Here is the memory verse for this week, John 14:6.“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Try to memorize this verse this week. And then think about it when you are at work, and in the line at the grocery store, and riding down the road in your car, and as your falling asleep. There are many who are trying to get to the Father by not coming through Jesus. This will not do!
Did you know that God cares about how you treat your dog? Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
The man who is following after God is one who is even kind to God’s creation. Does this mean we can never go hunting or we have to be tree huggers? Not at all! All this verse is indicating is that true believers reflect the heart of their Maker. He is kind and compassionate to His creation and His followers should be as well. All of us can think of people we have known who have taken great delight in torturing animals. This reflects their wicked heart that lusts to see misery thrive. The righteous person knows that God has showered mercy on him and he longs to extend that mercy to others, and because God’s mercy is so abundant this even extends to those creatures who are not image bearers. I’m not saying, “all dogs go to heaven” or anything like that. I am saying that God is kind and so should His people be.
Proverbs 12:4 says that “an excellent wife is the crown of her husband”. Husbands, do you feel that way about your wife? You should. Take some time today to make her feel as if she is your crown!
Philippians 2:5-11 was probably an early hymn composed to testify to the greatness of Jesus Christ; a greatness, notice, that was attainted through humility. Indeed what is truly remarkable about the character of Christ in this passage is the fact that He did not “cling” to that which was His right. Instead He set it aside and took the form of a servant in order to benefit us. What is most remarkable is the context of this passage in the book of Philippians. In its context Paul is using this hymn as a model for us to follow. “Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”. Are you following your model?
Today’s meditation builds on yesterday’s both in its subject matter and in the passage, Philippians 3:17, “Brothers, join in imitation me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”IN yesterday’s passage we saw how Paul called us to imitate Christ. Today he tells us to imitate himself and others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus in 2:19-30) who prove themselves to be good examples. Paul wanted these Philippian believers to have good models that they could imitate which is probably why he spends so much time talking about Timothy and Epaphroditus in chapter 2. Why?
Because all of us instinctly imitate someone, and as Christians we must be very intentional about who we will imitate or we will drift towards poor models. So if imitating Christ seems to these believers as too impossible Paul gives some more “attainable” models. This should be very encouraging and very challenging. The encouragement we should have is knowing that God does not leave us alone to just figure out how to live this Christian life. He gives us good models to help us along the way. The challenge we should hear is that God wants to use us as those models. In other words there are people all around us who are looking to us to see what it means to be a Christian. Based on your life alone, how do you think these people would define Christianity?
Do you ever find yourself saying, “If only I was around in the time when Jesus walked this earth then “so and so…”. You can fill in the blank any way you choose. I think we often feel as if we are slighted by the fact that we live in the time and place in which God has sovereingly placed us to exist. One of the many reasons that John 20:24-29 is in the bible is to squelch all such “if only” assertions.
This is the famous “doubting Thomas” passage in which the resurrected Lord appears to Thomas and tells him to touch his wounds so as to have the proof he desired to validate that Jesus, was in fact, alive. Once Thomas sees the Lord he falls down in worship and exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”. This is the climax of the whole gospel. Notice how Jesus responds to his amazing statement of faith. He says, “Thomas you believe because you see. More blessed are those who do not see yet believe.”
This is amazing! This means that although the visual tangible evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is not at our disposal we can nevertheless have the same experience Thomas had as he looked Jesus eyeball to eyeball. In fact, ours is the more “blessed” because ours is a more satisfied faith. Our faith is satisfied with the evidence that God has provided and we do not yearn for authenticating visions or miracles or experiences. We trust God’s word alone and we are blessed. Faith is no leap in the dark; it is a glorious step into the light and the light is cast by God’s word. Trust in that and be blessed today.
There is no such thing as “Lone Ranger Christianity”. God has not designed us to live a life of faith alone. That is why Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” In other words, if you isolate yourself you are a fool.
This is why it is hard to believe that a person is a genuine born again believer if he or she refuses to meet regularly with a local body of believers. Indeed one of the desires that comes along with our new hearts in conversion is a desire to want to fellowship and worship with other believers (see 1 John 2:19 for example). What other New Testament passages can you find that support this truth, namely, that we need one another in this walk of faith? And remember, even the Lone Ranger had his Tanto!
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The last two chapters of Esther tell us of the way the Jews celebrated their deliverance from the evil plot of Haman. One of the ways the celebrated their deliverance by God was by holding a festival called the festival of Purim. This festival is still practice by many orthodox Jews today. Read the chapters for more details.This is the point I want to make for today. Have we been delivered from a great threat? If so, and we certainly have (see yesterday’s meditation), how do we celebrate it? We have the holidays of Easter and Christmas but have these become so commercialized that the true significance is lost? Should we brainstorm new ways in which to celebrate our deliverance from death? I do not necessarily know the answer to these questions. I do, however, know this. Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). This is grounds for massive celebration. How will you celebrate today?
IF someone were going to shoot your mom or dad or your son or daughter do you think you would jump in the way of the bullet? What about if someone was going to shoot your teammate or co-worker? Or what about that person that makes your stomach cringe every time you see him or her? What if that person was about to be shot? Would you take the bullet for them? This is the kind of reasoning that Paul uses in Romans 5 to communicate to us how great is the love of God in Christ. Verse 8 says, “…while we were still sinners (v.10 clarifies that this means we are God’s enemies) Christ died for us.” As we are preparing for AWANA praise night tonight why not join the Cubbies and memorize this verse today!
Job is a very sad story. Job is a man who loses everything. He loses all his wealth, he loses all his children, he loses his health, he loses his wife’s support and his friend’s encouragement…he loses it all. And worst of all it doesn’t seem like he did anything to deserve such a loss! This is why his wife said to him, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9) What she meant was, “stop trusting God. Just give up. He has let you down so you just need to spit in His face and let Him finish you off.” Notice how Job replies, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Job knows that he is entirely at the disposal of God. God can do with him whatever He desires. We are made to serve him. It is never the other way around. To think otherwise is the heart of idolatry. God does as he pleases. “But wait a minute” you might say. “Job was wrong. It was Satan who afflicted him, not God. God is not responsible for the evil.” Notice what the next part of the verse says, “in all this (saying God gives good and evil) Job DID NOT SIN with his lips.”
Here is the very mystery of evil. Bad stuff does happen to just people. Satan does cause it, BUT God is always the one who permits it. So how does that help us in our suffering? Well, picture God holding Satan on a leash like a dog. Satan is foaming at the mouth and yelping just waiting to tear your to pieces. Here is the good news. He can only go as far as God allows him. God will never drop the leash. He is good and He is wise and we might not ever understand just why God let the leash out as far as He did. We can, however, trust Him because He is good. This is what the rest of the book of Job will point us towards.
The Christian is at war! The greatest enemy, however, is not Satan but Self! We are our own worst enemies! Paul in Romans 7 describes this battle. In this chapter he tells us about his desire to do God’s will fighting with the desire to sin. Both of these desires lie in his heart. So how do we win the battle and follow hard after God? Verse 25 tells us, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is by depending on the indwelling Spirit of Jesus that we find freedom. Chapter 8 will elaborate on this. Do not, however, wait until tomorrow to lay down your arms and pick up the weapons the Lord provides you by reliance on His Spirit.
Jesus was and is a miracle worker. During His time here on this earth all our Lord had to do to heal was say a word. That is all just a word. Knowing this, when we come to Mark 8:22-26 we might be puzzled. In this story Jesus heals a blind man, but it takes Him two times before the man sees everything clearly. After the first attempt the man saw people, but they were distorted like trees walking.What is going on here? Was Jesus not having a good day? Did He not eat His Wheaties that morning? No, no, we know He could have healed him the first time. We have already seen that kind of power demonstrated in the book of Mark.I believe many things are going on here, one of which I shall comment on. We live in a “drive-thru” /microwave/ 1 minute ready rice culture. We want stuff and we want stuff now. Sometimes God does not choose to heal instantly. Sometimes He chooses to take us through a long process of healing or restoration or growth. We want it yesterday, but He wisely leads us down the path of learning to trust in Him.God can and does, at times, work instantly but don’t begrudge the process He might be leading you through. Seek to learn from Him. Speaking of learning, what else can we learn from this passage?
Job is a man who has suffered much. He lost his kids (all 10 of them in one day). He lost his enormous wealth in the same day. He lost his health (he actually took broken pieces of pots to scratch his oozing sores in order to try and bring some relief to his physical pain.) He lost his wife’s faithful support (she told him just to curse God and die). Job needs someone to put his or her arm around him, give him a Tylenol, and just weep with him. That is what his friends should have done. That is not what they did. Instead of comforting Job they add to their misery by speaking out of place. Job 5 gives us an example of this in the speech of Eliphaz, one of Job’s “friends”. Read the speech. He says some very true things. In fact he says some stuff that is later quoted in other parts of the Bible (Contrast v.13 with 1 Corinthians 3:20). However, he applies these true statements wrongly to Job. In effect what he says is that God punishes those who sin against Him, but Job has not sinned against God. He is innocent, but Eliphaz cannot grasp the possibility of someone who is innocent suffering. Let us be careful not to apply genuine truth in a heartless or cruel way. If we do we might be guilty of saying false things about God, and then we would be the ones who need to repent.
One of the most oft quoted verses in the Bible is Romans 10:13. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is so good. It means that salvation is available to any who will cry out to Jesus in repentance and faith! What a sweet gospel, but notice how Paul follows up this glorious verse. “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed?” A third of the world’s people groups have still not been told the gospel. The only way they can be saved is if they hear the word of Christ. The only way they will hear the word of Christ is if someone preaches to them. The only way someone will preach to them is if people send and other people go! What will you do? Will you GO?? Will you send?? Or will you be disobedient??
God is a God of love! Amen and Amen! The Scriptures teach us this wonderful truth. We like this truth! God, however, is not just a huge ball of love. There is much more to God than that. God is also a God who judges; a God who is angry at evil; a God who is jealous for people to worship Him; a God who is terribly majestic in His holiness. And on and on we could go. Paul picks up on this a little in Romans 11. In this chapter Paul is explaining how the Gentiles came into the true olive tree of God’s chosen people. They came in because some of the natural branches (the unbelieving Jewish people) were cut off. These people rejected Christ as the Messiah and thus God rejected them. This is when Paul in verse 22 says, “Note therefore the KINDNESS and SEVERITY of God.” God is kind to some and He is severe to some, and Paul wants us to note both of these facts. In other words he wants us to meditate on them often. What good do you think it would do to meditate on God’s severity?
Some people reading this will not be worrying with taxes, but I can assure you that most are. In fact, now is the time to be especially concerned with taxes. It is tax season right at this moment. Even if you don’t pay income tax, all people pay taxes. The next time you buy a hamburger for $1.85 and you end up having to give more than 2 bucks you will be reminded that you pay taxes. Taxes are a nuisance to most. Nobody likes to pay taxes. Taxes go to government officials who, at times, do not spend those tax dollars in a way that we think they should be spent. Have you ever wondered what Jesus would say about paying tax? Well, Jesus does talk about paying taxes in Mark 12:13-17. When asked if a person should pay tax or not Jesus said, “bring me a coin.” The coins in those days had the image of Caesar the emperor on them (much like we have Lincoln and Washington today in the USA). Jesus said that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (v.17) Well, because Caesar’s image was on the coin that belonged to him. So we should pay taxes to him. What, however, does God put His image on? The answer is YOU! (Gen.1:27) So give God what has His image on it…. Give Him yourself!
It is amazing to see the way Joseph relates to his brothers in Genesis. Genesis 43 gives us a great picture at the kind of love he had, in particular, for his brother Benjamin. When Joseph saw him verse 30 says that he, “hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep.” It had been almost 20 years since he had seen his brother Benjamin and when he saw him he could not restrain himself from weeping. This is not the main point of the chapter but I want to hit on it. Joseph loved his brother, bottom line! How many of us can’t stand being in the same room with our siblings. That is sad. It is definitely not how a follower of Christ should act. Here is my challenge for all who have siblings this week. I am speaking to Students primarily. Show them at least one act of random kindness today. (Maybe offer to get them a refill from the kitchen, or take the trash out for them when it is their turn, or give them a compliment, etc.) Adults, why not make a call or send a note today. The world is watching, even in how we treat our brothers and sisters. In fact, that is the main way in which they are watching.
Here is a good memory verse for this week. “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23b) As a believer in Christ Jesus we should do everything (From sharing the gospel to taking out the trash) by trusting in Jesus! Anything else would bring much dishonor to our Lord!
Not all peer pressure is bad. I hope that the pressure you feel from your peers in sticking with this Bible reading plan is causing you to daily stay in the Word. We tend, however, to call such pressure “encouragement.” Usually, Peer pressure refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to the group. When this is the case “peer pressure” is a very negative thing. It is a powerful force that affects not only teenagers but people from all age brackets and walks of life. Indeed, peer pressure (in this negative sense) is nothing else than a clever weapon designed by Satan to keep believers (and others) from doing what is right.
Even the Roman ruler, Pilate, fell prey to the attacks of peer pressure. In Mark 15 we read how Pilate was determined to let Jesus go, having found no fault with Him. This release, however, was not at all what the Jewish leaders wanted so they stirred up a crowd to demand for Jesus’ crucifixion. Notice what verse 15 tells us about Pilate in the face of this enormous “peer pressure”. “So Pilate, wanting to satisfy the crowd…[delivered Jesus] to be crucified.”
You will probably not be challenged by a mob to do anything today. You will, however, always be around a crowd of some form of another. Usually these crowds will demand that we crucify the Son of God by going to the wrong place on the internet, or having an unhealthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex, or cheating on your taxes or something like this. DO NOT SATISFY these crowds. Do not be like Pilate. Do not be afraid of being alone as you walk the path less worn. The Son of God whom you have not denied will be your constant companion, and His friendship is very sweet!
The last verses of Mark 14 tell us of how Peter denied Jesus in the presence of others and left Jesus all alone. The last verse reads, “and [Peter] broke down and wept.” Mark 15 tells us how this lonely Jesus walked the path of suffering up to the cross and died on the tree. Mark 16 tells how Jesus, triumphantly, rose from the grave! It is a glorious finish to Mark’s little gospel and there is much we could say about this chapter. I want to focus, however, on one comment that was made by the angel who told the women at the empty tomb of the resurrection of Jesus.
After assuring the women that Jesus’ body was indeed not stolen but that He had been raised the angel tells the women, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galiee.” (v.7) What a gloriously comforting verse this is. The one who denied the Master is the very one who is singled out in the promise of being reunited with the resurrected Jesus. What might we learn from this? I think we should learn from this something about how deep the grace of God is toward us sinners.
We have all been Peter. We have all denied the Master in thoughts, words, and deeds. Even as genuine believers we have done this. Here is the lesson: there is no sin a genuine believer can commit that will be so gross that the grace of God cannot sweep it into the forgiving arms of God. Some might argue that this does not treat sin seriously enough. I am not trying to downplay sin. Peter wept bitterly over his sin and we too must sincerely repent of that which we do that does not please our Lord. No, this does not downplay the seriousness. What it does is magnify the grace of God! Live in that grace today!
How would you respond if someone asked you how old you are? Most of us would probably say something like, “I am 16 or 22 or 54 or 76 years old.” In Genesis 47 Jacob is asked this very question by Pharaoh but he does not respond in the way that I just described. When asked how old he is Jacob responds, “the days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years…”“Big whoop!” is what you might be thinking. Who cares about the funny way some old man talks? How can that possibly help me in my daily walk?
Here is how it can help: To often we live under the delusion that this world is our home. The Scriptures, however, tell us exactly the opposite. The Scriptures tell us that we were made for another world. In this world we are just travelers (See Hebrews 11:13-16). We are just passing through like we are on vacation. That is what it means to be a sojourner. A sojourner is one who does not settle down but is constantly on a journey. That is what this life is; it is a journey. God is doing many things with us on this journey, but one of the things He is doing is trying to get us to realize that the journey really exists. Be aware today that your life is a short vapor (James 4:14). You will not be here long. So, what good are you doing on your journey and how are you preparing for the time when the journey is over? These are the thoughts that should be running through our mind throughout the day.
Do you like appointments? Probably not. Most of the time when we have an appointment it is for the dentist, or doctor, or something else like these. An appointment is a time reserved for something. Usually, we can reschedule appointments. We can be early for appointments. We can be late for appointments. We can forget about appointments and miss them altogether. Not so with what God appoints. We can never be early, late, or miss an appointment that God makes. We can never reschedule His appointments. To some this may be a frightening truth, but in reality it is not. This is what Job realized when he said, “[man’s] days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass.” (Job 14:5) Job said this in despair because he was suffering much. Try to say this today with delight, knowing that you serve a God who is so in control that all your days, and all the days of every other human being alive and who has ever lived, have already been determined. Also, to echo yesterday’s devotion, if your time is determined how are you making the best use of it?
If we have been reading our Bibles with the proper sensitivity this week we will have probably picked up on a recurring theme; “Don’t live for this temporary life; live for that life that is to come.” The last two devotions deal pretty explicitly with this theme. This is because the whole Bible was written to train us to live in this way. Sometimes an example, like Jacob, is put before us to teach us how eternally minded people talk. At other times there is teaching (such as in Job 14) about how God powerfully limits our short lives. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul tells us of the rewards that are coming to eternally minded people. In verses 10-15 Paul tells us that all believers are building, with their lives, on the foundation of Jesus Christ. Some build with such material (gold, silver, precious stones) that the fires of God’s judgment do not consume them and they have great reward. Others build with weak materials (wood, hay, straw) the fire consumes the material and they have no reward. There is much that can be said on this passage but this much is clear. God will reward His children for the way they labored for Jesus. A second truth can be added to this first truth, namely, it is not wrong to want these rewards.
Sometimes people are sinned against in very terrible ways. Joseph was one such individual. At the age of 17 his brothers sold him as a slave in Egypt. This was the beginning of over two decades of various wrongs done to him. I hope by reading through his story you have been able to see just how badly he was treated. Years after his brothers’ atrocious act against him Joseph is talking with them. They are afraid that he will attempt to get back at them for the wrong they inflicted upon him. Notice, however, in Genesis 50:20 how Joseph responds to their fears. He says, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people.” What was he saying by that? He was saying that what they did to him was certainly evil and they should be held accountable. God, however, was not handcuffed by their actions. He indeed was causing something else in their evil act. He was sending Joseph ahead to Egypt in order to save His people. So they “meant” it for evil and God “meant” it for good. They caused it and God caused it. God always works for the good of His people even in the midst of suffering. We should blanket our minds with this truth daily! Do so today!
Today’s devotion will “piggy back” off of yesterday’s. In Job 18 Bildad speaks for the second time. Much of what he says is the same thing he said the first time. Basically he says, “You are a sinner Job. You have committed some great sin. This is why this entire calamity has fallen on you. Repent of this sin and God will restore you.” Sometimes when their argument is weak some people just yell louder. This is what Bildad does in this chapter. The problem with Bildad (and Eliphaz and Zophar) is that they leave no room for the “mystery of wickedness.” Sin is a very complex thing. The first sin committed by Adam and Eve that resulted in the fall left this world pretty messed up. Things, therefore, don’t always function like they should. Generally God does bless those who obey him, and He brings punishment on those who do not. But it is not always so simple, remember Joseph’s story. Here is the lesson: let us be slow to judge, quick to comfort, and always trust that our gracious God knows what He is up to even if we never will.
What would you do if the Lord blessed you with $5,000 in a miraculous way? Maybe you would throw a party or celebrate by buying something new. Perhaps you would pay off some debt or help one of your friends who were in need. In Luke 5 the Lord Jesus blesses Peter with the equivalent of $5,ooo in the form of a huge catch of fish. After Peter and his buddies had spent all-night and caught nothing Jesus blessed him with a wonderful catch. Notice, however, how Peter responds.
It might seem at first glance to be very strange. He says, “Depart, from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord.” (v.8) Why did he respond this way? I think it is because he caught a glimpse of who Jesus was, and whenever we catch a glimpse of who God is we realize just how sinful we are. Read the first 10 verses of Isaiah 6 for an Old Testament example of this. So, what did he do with the money? Verse 11 says that when he brought the boat to land he “left everything and followed Him.” He left the money for the greater treasure He found in this holy Jesus. If we think this is foolish than we still have not come to a proper understanding of Jesus.
I want to speak to the college aged folks today. One of the questions that is constantly in our minds as late teens and early 20 somethings has to do with relationships. Does she like me? I wonder if he thinks I am cute? If I ask her out will she say yes or reject me? All these questions are just the preliminary for the greater question of “Whom should I marry?” Very seldom does one ask the question, “Should I ever marry at all?” This is unfortunate because in 1 Corinthians 7:7 Paul seems to indicate that some will, indeed, not marry. It depends on how they have been “gifted”. To find a spouse is a gift from the Lord, but not everyone receives this gift. Some people are gifted with singleness. No matter if you have the gift of a spouse of the gift of singleness you will have significance in the kingdom and can live a totally fulfilled life. IF you wonder what benefits one could ever have by remaining single read the rest of this chapter. Specifically what do verses 32-34 say are some benefits of being single?
Why do good things happen to bad people? That is the question that Job is basically asking in Job 21. It is a question that is asked often in the Bible and often in our daily lives. Why does it seem, at times, that those who reject the Lord flourish while those who strive to follow Him are neglected, abused, or even put to death? One way to answer that is by reminding ourselves of God’s timeline. God has promised to put all wrongs right, but He has never promised to do so in this life. In God’s eyes this life is a short vapor. After this life is when reality truly begins. This is when God’s justice will be fully pronounced. Just like in a good movie when it seems like the bad guys are about to win finally at the climax the hero steps up and saves the day.
Don’t worry the climax is coming but it will not fully come until this life is over. Then every knee will bow and confess to the greatness of Jesus Christ and all will wish that they had bowed sooner. (see: Philippians 2:5-11) So, what should we do in the mean time? We should do what Asap did in Psalm 73. He asked the same question Job asked and almost lost his faith over it until, “I went to the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (v.17) In the mean time go to God’s sanctuary. Worship before Him and gain His eternal perspective.
We are a nation full of people who insist on our rights. That is why we have so many people suing each other. We feel that we are entitled to be treated in certain ways and when people do not treat us in that way we try and force them to do so, or at least punish them for their failure to treat us properly. This sense of entitlement is even woven into the spirit of our country. The Declaration of Independence speaks of certain “inalienable rights” that we are endowed with by our Creator.
This is not quite the way Paul speaks. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul speaks of how he gave up his rights for the sake of the gospel. He does not deny that he has the rights, but when he can advance the gospel by gladly surrendering those rights he freely chooses to do so. He says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I might share with them in its blessings.” (v.22-23) Without insisting on his rights Paul accommodates himself to those he seeks to serve so that it might be easier for them to embrace the gospel. Think about the situations you might find yourself in today. In what ways can you surrender your rights in order to help someone come to know Jesus better?
As we have been reading in Exodus no doubt our anticipation has been rising. Moses is providentially and unexpectantly rescued as a baby. He identifies with his people and flees from Pharaoh’s wrath. He spends 40 years in the desert learning to take care of sheep and finally comes into contact with the living God of his fathers. This God tells him to go back to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery. He has promised to deliver them. So when Moses goes to Pharaoh in chapter 5 we expect a mighty deliverance. That is not what we get. Instead we see the suffering of the people increased and consequently they are ready to stone Moses. They are still slaves. God has not delivered them….yet.
Why is this? Exodus 6 gives us the answer. In this chapter God responds to Moses after Moses cried out, “Why did you send me here?” Notice what God says. Among many other things he says, “I will deliver you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” (v.6) The people of Israel still did not know much about this God, nor did the people of Egypt. God wanted to change that. He wanted to show to His people and the people of Egypt just how powerful He was and is, so He was not going to bring about deliverance until He could demonstrate that. All of history is like a huge painter’s canvas. On this canvas God is displaying the glory of Himself. This is the lesson for us today. Do not worry or fret in times of trouble. Know that in those times God is doing something to show just how glorious He is. How does that help us you might wonder? Because in doing this, in displaying His glory for us, we get the greatest delight imaginable. Rejoice in your glorious God today who has delivered you with a mighty hand through the blood of Jesus.
IN 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul makes a very bold statement. In this verse he tells the Corinthians to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” In other words, he said, if you need a picture of what it means to follow Christ then just look at me. Can you say that to someone else? You should be able to say that! As you follow Christ there are going to be others that He puts in your way who look to you for guidance. Honestly, this terrifies me at times. What a great responsibility! Here is the secret though…just keep your eyes on JESUS!
Sometimes I think that we do not think very well of God. We come to Him in prayer and lay our requests before Him, but back in our minds we are saying, “I know He will never do this for me,” or something like that. It is true that in some of our prayers God has to say “NO” because if He gave us what we asked for it would actually harm us. Sometimes He has to say “SLOW” because it is a good thing, perhaps, that we ask for but it is just not the right time for us to have it. Sometimes He has to say, “GROW” because before He answers our prayer He wants to mature us in some ways. Finally there are times in which He says, “GO” and answers our requests immediately. NO matter what He might say to us in response to our prayers (No, slow, grow, or Go) we need to think rightly about God. This is what Jesus teaches us in Luke 11:13. Jesus uses the example of an earthly father. Any father desires to give good things to his children, and, unless he is crazy, the father will never give his son something harmful. Jesus says if earthly fathers do this, how much more will our heavenly Father! Trust Him! He has our good in mind….more than we can ever imagine!