The Faithful Church Impacts Culture

The presence of God’s people within an unbelieving culture impacts that society.  But will we learn from history and stand firm for the truth in our day?

Today’s Reading

Esther 1-3; Acts 5:1-16

Selected Verses

 The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel.  And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.   Esther 3:15

And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.   Acts 5:11-13

Reflections

Through fascinating circumstances, Esther, a Jew in captivity, becomes the queen of the Persian king.  About this time, a pompous man named Haman becomes second to the king.  Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian, causes proud Haman to become infuriated by his refusal to show him homage.  Haman, learning that Mordecai is a Jew but unaware of his relationship to Queen Esther, decides to use his newly acquired power to exterminate, not only Mordecai but, all the Jews in the empire.  With the decision announced, the king and Haman relax with a cool drink while the capital city turns chaotic.  Tomorrow we will learn how the faithful believer Mordecai fared.

In Acts, the early church was alive with passion for the gospel and with love for its members.  Enter two hypocrites, Ananias and Sapphira, who pretend to give all their wealth to the apostles.  Their truth comes out and they die for their lie.  The news spread and fear gripped everyone both inside and outside of the church.  The word was out: don’t trifle with these Christians!  No one dared to join them, but, on the other hand, “The people held them in high esteem.  And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (vs. 13-14). No one joined them unless they truly believed.  Who would enter a group where you might die if you were a phony?

Think about it

Do you, like me, long for a revival in the Church of Jesus Christ, where the level of commitment to God and His people is such that hypocrisy would melt away?  If we are steadfast, like Mordecai, we may yet see that.  Be ready.  The obedient church wins.  Ananias loses. The faithful church impacts culture. God is glorified.

True Worship of the True God

Many worship practices are justified because “they work.”  But do they truly honor God?  Do they conform to what God says in His word?

Today’s reading

Exodus 31-33; Matthew 22:23-46

Selected Verses

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”  When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”  Exodus 32:4-5

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

Reflections

When Jesus was asked “which is the great commandment in the law?” He immediately identified it as wholehearted love for the Lord your God.  That devotion toward God includes our hearts, minds, and souls, that is, our entire being.   It is both outward and inward.  It involves our thoughts, our emotions, and our wills. Nothing that is us is left out.  We may not reserve a corner of our hearts for another god, an idol of our own making.

The Israelites at Mt. Sinai showed the folly of attempting to create their own god.  Aaron caved in to the fears and demands of the people to have some physical object to look at and worship.  He seems to have been unwilling to fully renounce the God who had brought them out of Egypt, but he was willing to introduce a golden calf as a means to worship the Lord.

Think about it

We live in a pragmatic society whose methods and values too often seep into the church.  Many worship practices are justified because “they work.”  But in what sense do they work?  They may work to induce the “me generation” to attend and give, but do they truly honor God?  Do they conform to what God says in His word?

The reformers identified the marks of a true church as the accurate preaching of the Bible, the observance of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper), and the right administration of discipline.  Let us be sure our worship, whether corporately or privately, is of the one true and living God and according to His commands, with no eclectic golden calves permitted.  In other words, let ours be true worship of the true God.

The Sardis Syndrome

Reputation without Reality

The Sardis church had a great reputation but no character to back it up.  God knows our hearts and He is not fooled by pretense.  Beware of the common myth that perception is more important than reality.  Don’t fall into the Sardis syndrome.

Today’s reading: 

Jude 1-Revelation 3:13

My selection:

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

Revelation 3:1-2

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

A Chosen Race; A Holy Nation

God’s purposes in human history

God is carrying out His purposes in human history.  He decreed to elect a people for Himself and through Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).  He called Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).  But He had much more in mind than just the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He had the Church, the body of Christ, in view as Peter calls the Church a chosen race, a holy nation.  Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, is gathering in to Himself His own from every tribe, nation, and tongue (Hebrews 13:20-21; Revelation 7:9-10).   Rejoice! His redeeming work encompasses the whole earth and all of history, including you and me living in the here and now.

Today’s reading: 

James 3:13-1 Peter 2:12

My selection:

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

For more reflections on this passage, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

Taking Time to Celebrate

The wall builders took time to celebrate the work accomplished.  Do you?

Today’s reading: Nehemiah 11:1-12:47

Don’t let the relentless pressure to produce more and more rob you of times to pause, praise, and party.   God is at work through His people and we need to recognize that frequently.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The King at Home

There is evidence that David had plenty of flaws in his personal life as a husband and father.  Nevertheless, on one occasion, at least, he showed care, love and sensitivity on the home front.

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 14:1-16:43

Christian husbands and fathers are exhorted to love their wives and to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 5:25-6:4).  Having major responsibilities in their work does not exempt men from family duties and loving service.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Unbiblical Worship Exemplified

Worship is to be according to Scripture, but that didn’t happen during the reign of Ahaz.

Today’s reading:  2 Kings 14:1-16:20

That worship is to be according to Scripture is called the “regulative principle”.  God tells us how to worship Him in His Word.  That was true under the Law of Moses in Old Testament times and it is true today.  Ahaz blatantly disregarded this principle as we see in today’s reading.

There are variations in the interpretation of the regulative principle.  Some hold that whatever is not prohibited by the Bible for worship is permissible.  Others teach that only those activities and practices which are explicitly commanded in God’s Word are acceptable. Probably many churches are  somewhere in the middle on the subject, between these two positions.   Apparently, Ahaz didn’t give this principle much thought, but we should even if we don’t totally agree with each other on the details.  Worship is for the glory of God and our highest concern should be with pleasing Him.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

A Prayer for the Gentiles

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 7:13-8:61

God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel always had a global focus, an inclusion of the Gentiles (Genesis12:3).  Today’s reading gives another example of how the king of Israel, Solomon, understood this reality.  Clearly this attitude did not carry over during New Testament times and during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Is your prayer life informed by the Word of God?  Solomon’s was in the case of his prayer at the newly opened temple.  He showed a sensitivity to God’s grace and mercy toward “foreigners”.  Heaven will include worshipers of God from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 7:9-10).  Be sure you are praying for them.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

The Teachable Leader

Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 16:1-19:8

Godly leaders desperately need wise counselors who will speak the truth to them.  It’s easy for leaders to find “yes men” but where are those who will tell the truth even when it hurts?

If you are a leader, would those you lead say you are receptive and approachable?

Be sure you follow a teachable leader.  Be sure you are willing to be a Joab to your leader when necessary.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Godly Leadership: Wise and Fearless

Today’s reading: Joshua 16:1-19:31

Rare is the leader who is wise enough to see when his people need help and when they need to be challenged to rise to the occasion.   Rare is the leader who is fearless enough to risk the displeasure of his people by making them take responsibility for themselves. Joshua was a rare leader, worth emulating.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].