Chosen By God

In God, we see our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are chosen by Him and for Him. We have meaning and purpose.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 1-2; Second Thessalonians 2

Selected Verses

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”  

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Jeremiah 1:4-7

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second Thessalonians 2:13-14

Reflections

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in.  God told Jeremiah that He formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose).  What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations.  Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability.  God answered his excuses promising to send him.  Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view.  He lacked maturity and experience.  But he needed neither because God was sending him.  Secondly, God would tell him what to say.  Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiqués to the people.  He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians.  Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit.  When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved.  God had called them through the gospel and they responded.  The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think about it

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process.  There is no accountability and no boundaries, but then there is no purpose and no meaning.  Rejoice, if you know God has chosen you, called you, and set you apart  as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love.  If He has forgiven and adopted you as His child to serve Him, praise God.  Give yourself fully to Him.  Glory awaits us.

Authority and Faith

Those who hold significant authority in this world need God’s help and mercy, but some find it hard to believe in Him. We can learn from two examples below.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 6-8; John 4:31-54

Selected Verses

And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”  I Kings 7:12

The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  John 4:53

Reflections

The king of Israel heard that the Syrian army had fled, leaving their equipment and food behind.  Even though Elisha had already prophesied that there would be abundance of food within a day, the king suspected a trick.  He assumed that Elisha was wrong, so he was not expecting some kind of miraculous intervention.  But the prophet was right and the king was wrong.  Did his position as king cause him to be more self-confident and less willing to believe God’s word through His prophet?  It seems that those who have the most power and wealth sense the least need for divine assistance.

But this is not always the case.  When Jesus arrived at Cana, an official of King Herod the Tetrarch went to Jesus requesting healing for his son.  The official hoped that Jesus would come to his home and heal the boy, but Jesus rebuked him for seeking signs and wonders as a basis for faith.  The man implored him again and Jesus sent him on his way with a promise that his son would be well.  The healing occurred at the hour Jesus had spoken. Jesus was being constantly tested by the people who requested signs, but, in the case of the official, Jesus tested him to see if he believed enough to return home with only the assurance of the Lord’s word. He passed the test and believed, as did his whole household.

Think about it

Having power and wealth does not help a person to believe the truth.  It may even hinder faith.  What makes a person believe is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in his or her heart.  No one comes to Christ without the drawing of the Father (John 6:44).

If you believe God, it is not because you have some inherent wisdom to do so.  It is His doing completely.  You believe because He drew you.  He drew you because He wanted to.  You responded because He gave you a heart to believe.   For that He deserves all your praise.

Stop Limping and Follow Christ

God calls us to follow Him but biblical history shows how some followed while others limped between the true God and impostors. Will you follow or limp?

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 16-18; John 1:29-51

Selected Verses

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.  I Kings 18:21

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  John 1:35-37

Reflections

Israel under King Ahab continued in the rebellious ways of Jeroboam.  God sent a prophet, Elijah, to proclaim a drought as a means of getting their attention.  This went on for three years, but the nation did not cry out to God.  They continued to put hope in the false god Baal.  Elijah called for a showdown, a battle of the gods on Mount Carmel.  As this definitive demonstration of the truth began, Elijah described the people as limping between two different opinions.  They tried to use the Lord and Baal to solve their problems, but the Lord would not allow this kind of syncretism.

We know from our reading how this turned out.  The Lord God of heaven and earth was shown to be the only one who could act.  Baal and his prophets were exposed as frauds.  Any reasonable person would give up following Baal and fully follow the Lord.

In Jesus’ early ministry, John the Baptist introduced Him to his disciples as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (vs. 29).  The next day, as Jesus walked by, two of John’s disciples heard him say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  Maybe these two had thought about John’s comment overnight.  Maybe they had tossed and turned pondering what they should do.  Their teacher, John, was saying that this Jesus was greater than he was, One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  They must have thought, “It’s time to follow Jesus” because follow Him they did.

Think about it

God will not allow us to go limping between two opinions.  Are you following Him or the god of our culture?  Are you following the One who came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world?  Only He is more powerful than Baal.  Only He takes away sin.  Stop limping and follow Jesus Christ wherever He leads.

Silence in Heaven

Those who boast proudly before God will someday learn to keep silent before Him.

Today’s reading: Obadiah; Revelation 8
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
though your nest is set among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,
declares the Lord.                                                                      Obadiah 1:3-4

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.                                                                                             Revelation 8:1

In John’s Revelation, the Lamb opens six of the seven seals. When He comes to the seventh seal, something unprecedented occurs. There is silence in heaven. The saints lifted up worship and loud praises to God, but now it stops. The guilty cry out in grief that the mountains should fall upon them to hide them. Now they all grow silent. It is as if they wait to see what the Lamb will do next. Then the judgment falls everywhere.

There was a time when the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, had grown so proud that they thought no one could bring them down. They vented their arrogance on suffering Israel. God sent Obadiah to warn them that He would bring them down. The judgment would be more thorough and complete than anything they could imagine.

The proud and foolish think that God, if He exists at all, has no interest or knowledge of people on earth. They see believers dying for their faith and do not know that the Lord receives them and keeps them safe. He reassures them that they will be avenged. The day of wrath comes.

What should be our attitude toward God? Prayerful humility behooves us. Silence before Him is befitting. Let all boastful pride be eliminated and replaced with prayerful humility and silence.

 

 

A Time to Love; a Time to Hate

To hate what God hates is good, but not if we do not love what God loves.

Today’s reading: Hosea 9-11; Revelation 2

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.                                                     Hosea 11:8-9

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.                                                                                         Revelation 2:4-6

God’s love for His people is relentless, though He reveals in His Word how His heart recoils with the sinfulness of His people. Ultimately, God restrains His justice against His people and does not destroy them.

Hosea was sent to warn Judah and Israel of her impending judgment. This intervention by the Lord was another act of His patience and mercy. He gave them a chance to repent. He showed them through the sad, painful marital relationship of Hosea and Gomer, how God saw the unfaithfulness of His people toward Him. They repaid His goodness and blessing with idolatry and worship of false gods. Even after all that, God’s compassion toward them was aroused. As He said through the prophet Ezekiel, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” ( Ezekiel 18:23).

The Lord gave the Apostle John messages for seven churches of Asia Minor. Most of them contain warnings of impending judgment for their sin. In the letter to the church in Ephesus, He commends them for several qualities including their hatred of an heretical group called the Nicolaitans. While it was good to hate evil, they were also found to have abandoned the love they had shown earlier. Jesus tells them to repent of this attitude lest they lose their standing as a church completely.

Let this be a warning to us as well. Do not let hatred of evil drive out the love of God for those He is graciously calling to Himself. There is a time to love and a time to hate. (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

 

A Cloud to a Kingdom

God, by the work of His Son, changed His elect people from a cloud to a kingdom

Today’s reading: Hosea 5-8; Revelation 1

4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:4-6

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1: 5b-6

Hosea expresses God’s view of His people. He laments their instability. Their unstable love is like a morning cloud or dew. It melts away rapidly. Their sacrifices and burnt offerings were unacceptable for they were not done out of steadfast love nor from a knowledge of God. They went through the motions. What? Did they think God could be fooled? So the Lord, through Hosea, says “What shall I do with you?”

God Himself answered the question. What He did was to send His Son to free us from our sins by His blood. Why? Because He loves us. His love is unchangeable and unstoppable. Not only that, He desired a kingdom for His glory. His purposes are wise and good. Although Israel failed to become what He called them to be, through Jesus Christ, all the nations have been called to be a kingdom and priests to Him. And He is glorified and has dominion for ever and ever.

Unregenerate man attempts to please God with fleeting love and phony sacrifices, but God graciously acts to redeem a people who know God, who are freed from their sins and made a kingdom. A cloud vs. a kingdom, what a contrast! Give praise to God for His love and wisdom.

 

 

The Reason God Saves

The reason God saves has nothing to do with the worthiness or performance of those He saves. So why does He do it?

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 20-21; James 1

“Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. 10 So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.                                     Ezekiel 20:8b-10

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.                                                                       James 1:18

Page after page, Ezekiel lays out the case against Israel and Judah. Their sin and unfaithfulness before a Holy God was an abomination. God would have been just and right to destroy them at the first failure but He extended patience and relented again and again. But why? Three times in chapter 20 He says “I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned” (vs. 9,14, 22). Another time He says “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” (v.44). God’s purpose in showing them mercy was that His name not be profaned and that Israel should know that He is the Lord.

God shows mercy to His elect people.  Why? Two reasons.  One, so that the world would not be able to claim that He is unable to save His wayward sheep.  Two, so that His people should know Him in truth. James sheds more light on the subject when he writes that “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Why did God save His people? Because He wanted to. It was of His own will. God has no constraints. He has no obligations. He is completely free. He can do what He wants consistent with His holiness. What did He want to do? He wanted to save a people for Himself, the beginning of a new creation.

And that is what He did. Are you one of His people? If so, marvel at the greatness of His grace and mercy to you. Remember, you are secure in Him because the reason God saves has nothing to do with you.

 

God’s Love

Two things are true of those who find God’s forgiveness and restoration, they recognize their sinful unworthiness, and they recognize God’s goodness and loving kindness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 33-35; Titus 3

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’ Jeremiah 33:11b

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us… Titus 3:3-5a

Jeremiah’s prophecy is peppered with indictments for Judah’s persistent rebellion against God, His Law, and His prophets. But these lists of failures are also accompanied by reassurances that God will ultimately restore the people He has chosen for Himself. They will be blessed and they will be filled with praise and thanks to the Lord.

Paul wrote to Titus who had the unenviable task of organizing and teaching the congregation in Crete, a society known for being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” Indeed, Paul identifies himself with a list of vices and character flaws that rivals that of the infamous Cretans. He says he and others who have now been saved could be described as “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” It is not a flattering resume, to say the least.

Then God intervened. Everything changed. God the Savior came with His goodness and loving kindness and saved Paul and all upon whom He set His love.

Many, like me, will agree that the more we know of God and of ourselves the more amazed we are of the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord. Words cannot describe the relief of sins forgiven, of salvation assured, of adoption as God’s son, and of purpose and calling to serve God. Days spent in malice and envy are now filled with gratefulness and service. No, none who know Him would claim to be sinless or perfect, far from it. But it is all of God’s grace and He will complete what He has begun.

Be sure you know the goodness and loving kindness of God who saves. If you do, lift up His praises today in all you do.

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

In God, we find that our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are the result of His eternal decrees. We have meaning and purpose that transcends this world and results in glory.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-7

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in. God told Jeremiah that he formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose). What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability. God answered his excuses promising to send him. Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view. He lacked maturity and experience. But he needed neither because God was sending him. Secondly, God would tell him what to say. Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiques to the people. He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians. Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit. When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved. God had called them through the gospel and they responded. The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process. There is no accountability and no limitation, but then there is no purpose and no meaning. If you know you have been called by God, set apart by Him as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love, forgiven, and adopted as His child to serve Him, rejoice. Give yourself fully to Him. Glory awaits us.

What God Wants

God needs nothing from us, but there is something He wants from us. Do you have it?

Today’s reading: Isaiah 65-66; 2 Thessalonians 1

1Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.          Isaiah 66:1-2

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.                                                                                                                                                                               2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

In the closing chapters of his prophecy, Isaiah describes the coming new heavens and new earth. Every pain, every disappointment, every sorrow of this world will be eliminated and forgotten (65:17). Who will enjoy this new creation? Who will have God’s favor? Surprisingly for those who don’t know God well, it is not those who have pompously tried to impress God. God doesn’t need our works. He doesn’t need a “house.” He inhabits the universe. There is nothing we can build for Him that would adequately reflect His glory.

But there is something in humans that gets God’s attention: a humble and contrite spirit that shows itself in trembling at His word. God is glorified properly by all who bow before Him and who take His word seriously. They may also be used by Him to do great things, but the key element of their lives is a heart that bows in worship before Him.

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, puts his call to holiness in the context of the return of Jesus Christ in judgment. Believers suffer at the hands of those who neither know God nor obey the gospel of Christ. Paul wants his readers to focus on living in a way that is worthy of the kingdom of God, worthy of His calling. He prays to God to work in them to this end, and he charges them to make every effort in this direction, too.

God looks for the contrite, humble heart, one that fears no one but God. Does He find that in you?