|July 2010 Daily Devotion Archive|
Unbelieving Hearts, Part 2 of 2
Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." - John 4:48
Our ever-wise God designed things in such a way that faith in the unseen would be a necessity. It's easy to believe in what we can see, but it isn't always as easy to believe in what we can't see. But we have all the evidence we need right at our fingertips--if we open our eyes enough to see it. The Bible was written by 40 different authors over a period of 1,500 years, yet it is astoundingly consistent from start to finish. It has been preserved remarkably well throughout history and various early manuscripts that have been found are in very close agreement. Signs point to Jesus throughout the Bible, even long before the first prophecy of His coming was written. Those are just a few facts about the Bible; there are many, many more. It is significantly different from any other religious book and it is the only one which invites us to have a personal relationship with the true living God. Open your eyes to the unseen and the truth that flows throughout God's Word. If you can do that, you won't regret it.
God's Power In Us
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:14-21
In this passage Paul offers a beautiful reminder of both the love and the power of God. With God's power working in us, we are able to do so much more than we could on our own. We just have to serve and obey.
Fearing the Lord, Hating Evil
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.
- Proverbs 8:13
Over the last three weeks we have taken a look at the bulk of Proverbs 8, in which we get a better view of the characteristics of the personified wisdom. Today I want to go back and look at one of those verses in particular. Do we really fear the Lord today as we should? Unfortunately, most of us do not. So many Christians have fallen into the sins of the world; instead of hating evil, many not only tolerate it but participate in it as well. God made it easy for us when He sent Jesus to die for our sins and all we have to do is accept Him into our hearts, but sometimes I wonder if He made it too easy because many Christians donít seem to take Him seriously anymore. God hates evil, and we should too. We should avoid it and we should take a stand against it. Considering all that God has done for us, this is just one small thing we need to do for Him. That is just one of the things that we can do if we live a life filled with wisdom.
David...Or Jesus?, Part 2 of 2
For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.
All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
For the kingdom is the Lord's,
And He rules over the nations.
- Psalm 22:16-18, 27-28
The comparison between David's 22nd Psalm and Jesus' crucifixion continues deeper into the chapter. Jesus' hands and feet were pierced on the cross but He could still count all His bones--none of them were broken. We also know that the soldiers cast lots for His clothing. Ultimately, though, Jesus' kingdom stretched to all the ends of the world, including the Gentiles, and He does indeed rule over the nations.
Nothing is Impossible with God
And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh!" - Genesis 18:13-15
Is anything too hard for the Lord? Most Christians would correctly answer "no" if asked that question, yet many still act that way at times, perhaps without even realizing it. Maybe you're one of the many people in this area who has lost a job or maybe you've been diagnosed with cancer or another serious illness. But no matter the circumstances, God can and will prevail. In fact, I would go as far as to say that He enjoys bringing something good and/or surprising out of a seemingly impossible situation because that will ultimately bring more glory to Him and hopefully, in turn, more lost souls can find Him as well. But the bottom line is this: Trust God, because nothing is impossible for Him.
The End Result
Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. - 1 Samuel 17:49-50
Recently we've been talking about the strong, unwavering faith of David, and here we see the end result of that faith. Looking at it from a human perspective, it was a virtual certainty that David would have been killed by Goliath. Yet he wasn't, and he knew he wouldn't be. That's what faith is all about: Trusting God completely, especially when it is hardest to do so. Take your problems to the Lord in prayer; let go of them and trust Him to handle them for you. That isn't merely a statement intended to offer some comfort if you are struggling with something; it is a fact that is backed up time and time again in the Bible. The Lord gave the victory to David despite nearly impossible odds, and He can do the same for you. You simply have to trust Him.
Standing Up for His Principles
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king." - Daniel 1:8-10
Daniel was given a high honor, being chosen to serve in the king's palace and to eat and drink with the king. Many people in this situation would have simply done whatever the king told them to do, but not Daniel. He was not about to compromise his principles, not even for the king. He correctly placed God above the king instead of placing the king above God. When you are faced with a choice of doing what God has commanded or what another person tells you to do, how do you respond?
Why Jesus Came
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." - Luke 4:18-19
This is why Jesus came. Yes, ultimately He came to die on the cross so that God could forgive us for our sins. However, as Jesus reads here from the book of Isaiah, He also came for many other purposes. Notice that none of these reasons involves the rich, the famous, or the powerful. They all revolve around those who are weak, poor, or oppressed. Those are the people Jesus most wanted to reach out to, and we need to follow His example, caring for those who need to see Jesus' love the most.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:1-3
Paul emplores believers to "walk worthy of the calling." We need to live in a way that is as Christ-like as possible, not just get saved and think that's all there is to it. Why is this so important? It's how Jesus told us to live, and that answer should be enough. Still, since He wouldn't give a random or unreasonable command, there are other reasons. Living in the way described in this passage helps us get along much better with one another, hopefully preventing these silly arguments that happen within the church all too frequently. It also goes back to our call to be the light in this dark world. For many non-believers, we're the example they see. We need to stand out if we're going to have an impact on them. In your daily walk of life, how worthy are you?
"Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me [wisdom] your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,
And if you scoff, you will bear it alone."
- Proverbs 9:6, 9-12
I Shall Not Want
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. - Psalm 23:1
Is the Lord your shepherd? If He is, and if you have given your life over to Him, then you can have the peace and serenity that this psalm offers. You don't have to want for anything, as David writes here. But do you? The materialism that plagues our society causes most people to keep wanting and wanting and wanting, never being satisfied because they seek happiness from material things. Even some Christians are guilty of this. Be careful not to let your "want"s control you. Just because something looks good in a commercial or on a store shelf doesn't mean that you need it in order to make your life better, despite what marketing people try to get you to believe. Think about David and all the people who lived back in Biblical times. They couldn't even have imagined the kinds of technology and other modern conveniences that we have today. But they seemed to get along just fine without it, because of the one thing people in both time periods can have: A strong relationship with God.
Abraham Intercedes in Prayer
And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city [of Sodom]; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? ... So the Lord said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." - Genesis 18:23-24, 26
Abraham fervently prayed (see James 5:16) for any righteous people who may be living in the wicked city of Sodom (and he was most concerned about his nephew, Lot). If you read the entire account, you will see that God relented as Abraham prayed, pledging to spare the city if as few as ten righteous people could be found. I believe this shows that, if we have a close relationship with God and, as guided by the Holy Spirit, pray fervently for something, God will answer our prayer. If Abraham had not prayed for Sodom, I believe God would have continued with His original plan. Of course, we know that Sodom was still destroyed because there were not even ten righteous people, but Lot himself was spared (see Genesis 19:29), and Abraham's prayer was effective.
The Effects of Jealousy, Part 1 of 2
So the women sang as they danced, and said: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?" So Saul eyed David from that day forward. - 1 Samuel 18:7-9
Up to this point in time, Saul had a good relationship with David. However, that suddenly changed--and all because of something that people were saying. Essentially, some of the Israelites credited David with being a better warrior than Saul, and Saul became so upset and jealous over their comments that he started trying to kill David, and he made several attempts to do just that. What had David done wrong? Absolutely nothing. Jealousy and envy can make people do some very strange and disturbing things. Don't let them take control of you the way they took control of Saul. If you truly trust God to take care of you and supply your needs, then you will have no reason to be jealous in the first place.
So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants." So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. - Daniel 1:11-14
Last week we saw how Daniel stood up for his principles, not defiling himself by eating the king's delicacies or drinking his wine. Here, he proposes a challenge between the followers of God and the followers of the king. Daniel was so confident in his beliefs, his principles, and his relationship with God I think he was certain his group would win, and in fact they did. After the ten day period, his group looked better and healthier than the king's group, so the king decided that everyone would eat what Daniel and his friends had been eating. Daniel stood up for what he knew was right, and in the end, it benefited everyone around him.
Be Careful not to Prejudge
Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country." - Luke 4:24
How true are these words? Jesus was speaking to people at Nazareth at the time, and they quickly rejected Him. However, it applies on a larger scale as well when we think about what the Jews as a whole would do to Him later on at the cross. Even today, while some Jews have become Christians, many still do not believe that Jesus was truly the Messiah, despite how clear all the signs are and how closely the New Testament is entwined with the Old. I think the lesson for us is to try to not prejudge people. One example that popped into my mind was Albert Einstein, who did very poorly in school and who people thought was ignorant, but we all know what he went on to accomplish. The people close to him who should have known him the best really didn't understand him at all, and I think Jesus faced similar problems during His time on this earth. This should encourage us to take a closer look at the people around us and really try to understand them rather than prejudging them.
Jesus Fills All Things
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) - Ephesians 4:7-10
I don't have much to add to this particular passage, but I just thought it gives a beautiful picture of why Jesus came to this earth in addition to what happened at the cross. Paul writes that Jesus descended to the earth to "fill all things," even to the lowest depths. If you feel like you are in one of those depths in your life right now, I hope this passage can be a comfort to you.
A foolish woman is clamorous;
She is simple, and knows nothing.
For she sits at the door of her house,
On a seat by the highest places of the city,
To call to those who pass by,
Who go straight on their way:
"Whoever is simple, let him turn in here";
And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
"Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of hell.
- Proverbs 9:13-18
Green Pastures and Still Waters
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
- Psalm 23:2-3
Don't these two verses paint a lovely picture of peace and contentment? That's what Jesus offers to us...but we have to accept His gift. Many people, intentionally or otherwise, do not accept this gift. Are you one of them? We live in a fast-paced society which makes it more difficult than ever before to achieve a state of peace and tranquility. I look around and see many Christians going right along with the world in this area, and I think most don't even realize it. But it is vital that we step back and slow down. Our relationship with God depends on it, and we must also look different from the world around us if we're going to make an impact in our world. Slow down, take a deep breath, and let Jesus give you the peace that He offers which can restore your soul.
Take God Seriously
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, "Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!" But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. - Genesis 19:14
The angels who had visited Lot told him to take his family and leave the city because the Lord was going to destroy it because the city and virtually everyone who lived there had become so incredibly wicked. Although Lot wasn't perfect and he was surrounded by such sinfulness, he still knew that God was serious about this. However, his sons-in-law clearly did not. Where do you fall along that line--do you live your life as God wants you to, generally trying to do what is right? Or do you live in sin because, like Lot's sons-in-law, you don't take God as seriously as you should? Proverbs 8:13 tells us we should hate evil. Romans 12:9 tells us to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good. We live in a sinful world, but as Christians we need to stand out and stand up for what is right and good. Most of all, we need to follow God and take Him seriously.
The Effects of Jealousy, Part 2 of 2
Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. ... Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. - 1 Samuel 18:12, 15
Last week we took a look at how Saul became jealous of David because the people credited David with being the better warrior. The effects of that jealousy continue here. Saul allowed his jealousy to completely overtake him, even to the point of pushing the Spirit of God out of him and onto David. I don't fully understand this "distressing spirit" that is spoken of several times in the latter half of 1 Samuel, but it all started the day after Saul's jealousy began. I believe what most likely happened is that Saul became so overcome with envy and the desire to kill David that he could no longer fulfill the Lord's work, and that is what caused His Spirit to depart from Saul and enter David. But remember this all started because of something a group of people said. The other lesson here is to not pay so much attention to what other people think because, in the end, God's opinion is all that matters.
Astrologers Couldn't Figure it Out
And the king said to them, "I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream." Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, "O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation." The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, "My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. - Daniel 2:3-5
This is just one of the problem with the magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers that the king called to ask them to interpret his dream. If he had told them what his dream was, they could have made up some kind of an explanation, as they had probably done in the past. However, he wanted to give them a truer test of their abilities, and of course without God's help, they failed the test. But a little later in the chapter we see that Daniel was able to tell the king about his dream and the interpretation, with God's help. Don't fall for tricks that come from astrologers and other fortune tellers. God is the ultimate source of truth.
The Peaceful Route
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way. - Luke 4:28-30
I thought this was a perfect example of Jesus' personality and how He chose to handle problems that arose. This took place after He had spoken to some of the people of Nazareth, and they did not like the truth that came from Him. Despite how extreme it sounds, it seems as if they were ready to push Him off a cliff to His death! So, how did Jesus respond? Did he make some grand speech or use some kind of divine intervention to save Himself? No, He didn't. Instead, in the midst of what must have been confusion amongst the large crowd, He simply walked back through the crowd and went on His way. Jesus always took the peaceful, humble route whenever possible, and we should try to follow that same example in our lives.
Gifts and Callings
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. - Ephesians 4:11-12
God has given each of us at least one gift, and we all have a particular calling within the work of the church. We each need to use our unique gifts and talents and work together through those to have the greatest impact on the world around us. If you just go to church on Sunday mornings, sit in the back pew, and then go home at 12:00 and don't think much about it until the following Sunday comes around, you are wasting whatever gift God has given you. Maybe you aren't sure what that gift is, but I assure you, God wants to use you for something within His church. Pray about it and seek out an opportunity to serve Him. If all Christians did this like we are called to do, we would have no problems spreading the truth of God's Word across our country and across the world.
The proverbs of Solomon:
A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish,
But He casts away the desire of the wicked.
- Proverbs 10:1-3
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
- Psalm 23:4-6
Led Out by God
And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. - Genesis 19:16
There is a powerful lesson to be learned from this verse, especially if you are trapped in some type of sin. Lot was reluctant to leave Sodom, even though he knew it was about to be destroyed. Despite how sinful it was, I feel sure he had friends and neighbors that he cared for and did not want to leave. He had built up a life there for himself and did not want to leave all of that behind. Similarly, it can be very difficult for someone to break away from a life of sin, especially if it has been going on for a long time. Satan will do whatever he can to try to keep you right where you are so that you are unable to fully serve God. But if you truly want to break away from that sin, pray to God and He will help pull you out of it, just like His angels pulled a reluctant Lot, along with his family, out of Sodom just before it was destroyed.
Making a Decision
Then they told David, saying, "Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors." Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" And the Lord said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah." - 1 Samuel 23:1-2
David's caring heart wanted to help these people who were being attacked by the Philistines. However, he did not simply act on his own desires. Instead, he prayed first and asked God for guidance and direction. How often do you stop and do that before making a decision? This was obviously a big decision, but we should ask God for guidance in everything, whether large or small. Some people make quick decisions while others sit down for a while to study all the possible consequences first. But even for those people who debate the options for a while, God is often left out of the picture. He wants to help guide us through the many decisions we all face. Don't forget to ask Him for guidance the next time you face a decision.
Give God the Credit
As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. - Daniel 2:29-30
God had already revealed the king's dream to Daniel. That gave Daniel the perfect opportunity to take the credit for himself, which would have made him look even better in the king's eyes. But Daniel knew whose opinion was most important: God's, not the king's. So he rightfully chose to give God the credit for being able to interpret the king's dream, humbling himself at the same time. Next week we will see the impact this choice had on the king.
Doing it Again, God's Way
When [Jesus] had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. - Luke 5:4-6
Simon had been out fishing all night and had not caught a single fish. When Jesus told Him to try again, he only hesitated for a moment before following Jesus' command, and we all know the result: They caught so many fish that their net began to break. Sometimes God may ask you to do something that you have already tried to do on your own and failed. Do you listen and follow His commands? Perhaps the timing wasn't right the first time or perhaps God wants to show His power through you. Either way, make sure you don't let past frustrations get in the way of doing what God asks you to do. Just because something didn't work in the past doesn't mean it can't work now if that is what He is telling you to do.
We Have No Excuses
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. - Ephesians 4:17-19
It sounds as if the Ephesians faced similar problems to what we're facing today. Once we are saved, we should no longer walk as non-believers do. They don't understand what it means to have a relationship with Christ, but we do. As Paul writes here, they are blind in their hearts and give themselves over to lewdness and greediness, both of which we see a significant amount of in our society today. They don't know any better, but we do. We have no excuses, and we cannot allow ourselves to be sucked into that type of lifestyle. We must take a stand for what is good and right!
He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.
As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
So is the lazy man to those who send him.
- Proverbs 10:4-5, 26
A problem that is becoming increasingly worse in our country today is discussed in the tenth chapter of Proverbs, among other places in the Bible. Many younger people (and though I am of that generation, I am most certainly not of this mindset) seem to have the belief that everything should just be given to them and they shouldn't have to work for anything. That creates a culture of laziness, and if it persists long enough, can cause serious problems across a society. In these verses, Solomon gives us several specific warnings related to laziness. We need to learn from our ancestors who knew the value of hard work, and we need to follow their example.