Beware the Seduction of Power

Today’s reading: Judges 9:1-10:5

In this passage we have a sad example of how pride and the desire for power and prestige can trap and destroy a person. Flee those temptations! Seek to do and be what God has called you to.

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

Equality and Inequality in God’s Economy

Today’s reading: Joshua 13:1-15:63

While today’s reading includes long lists of geographical locations and the territorial allotments given to various tribes, there is an important spiritual lesson to be learned here. Don’t miss it!

Comparing ourselves to others (what we are, what we have) will inevitably result in either envy or pride. Envy and pride are enemies which destroy our ability to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives – to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. Resist the temptation to compare yourself, your accomplishments, your possessions with others. Instead, focus your whole being on His glory.

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

More Dangerous than Adversity

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 6:1-9:6

We are in more spiritual danger in times of prosperity than in times of adversity. God warned His people, and, if we are His, we should heed His warning.

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

Resting, Worshiping, and Feasting

Today’s reading: Leviticus 21:1-23:25

All of our time belongs to God. He has the right to require that we use it as He specifies. But He does not drive us relentlessly as we, workaholics, drive ourselves. While these Old Testament feasts have been fulfilled in Christ, the principle remains that we are to take time to rest and celebrate. See how God loves His people and tenderly looks out for their best.

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

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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.



The Danger of Prosperity

Many can handle adversity, but few prosperity. Are you aware of the danger of prosperity?

Today’s reading: Hosea 12-14; Revelation 3

But I am the Lord your God
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior.
5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought;
but when they had grazed, they became full,
they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;
therefore they forgot me.                                                        Hosea 13:4-6

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.                                                                              Revelation 3:17-18

It seems to be the experience of many that in difficult times faith flourishes and good character is strengthened, while in times of ease and plenty laziness and arrogance grows. Can we handle prosperity?

Hosea delivered God’s brutally honest message to Israel and Judah. The Lord told them that He was with them in the wilderness and in the land of drought, but, when they got to lush pastures and were filled, they grew proud and forgot God. This led them to a spiritual wilderness and desert and to the need to recognize their sin and unfaithfulness.

In the letter to the Laodicean Church, the Lord made similar comments to those who were rich and prosperous. They were actually spiritually blinded by their apparent success and security. He diagnosed their true condition as being “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” They felt comfortable, but God found them lukewarm. Of course, being cold or hot does not feel comfortable. We prefer a moderate temperature, like lukewarmness. But God hates lukewarmness, spiritual lukewarmness, that is,  in those who claim to be His.

God in His grace and mercy sends His truth to His people. There is always a remedy for prosperity-induced laziness, arrogance, and lukewarmness. That remedy is repentance and confession of sin.

If these are not easy times, if you are in the wilderness or in dry lands, remember that the worst thing that can happen to you is not to suffer adversity but to forget the Lord. If these are good times in your life, be sure you are handling prosperity with humility and a God-glorifying focus. Beware the danger of prosperity.

Honoring Christ

Honoring Christ by maintaining hope even in the midst of great trials and suffering, can make the Christian life a curiosity to unbelievers.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 36-37; 1 Peter 3

In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.                                                                               Ezekiel 36:19b-21

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.                                                                                                 1 Peter 3:14-16

The persistent idolatry of Israel and Judah brought on their downfall, but did they learn from it? No! They continued to profane the name of the Lord by not recognizing before their captors that God was punishing them for their sin. It was not because of any weakness or limitations of the Sovereign God of the universe that they had been overthrown and sent out of their land. So the captors scratched their heads and asked, “Why did this happen to them?”

Israel and Judah were given a perfect opportunity to show repentance and to honor their God before pagan nations, but they failed. So Ezekiel declared their guilt before them. We will learn in the book of Daniel that there were a few Jews who were very faithful to God while in captivity, but they seem to have been the exception and not the rule.

Peter tells his readers who are also in a kind of captivity in the first century A.D., that they should suffer for righteousness sake. In other words, they should submit to undeserved persecution and maintain hope and trust in the Lord. He tells them to be ready “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Hope in the midst of unjust suffering is as rare as it is hard to explain. The question they should anticipate is, “Why are these people still so hopeful under all this opposition?”

How do we prepare for the possibility of suffering for righteousness sake? Should we prepare little sound bites or memorize trite phrases? Peter told his readers then, and, I think, he would tell us now “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Be not like the Old Testament Israelites who profaned the Lord’s name, but by honoring Christ in your heart be ready to honor Him with your words.

Poverty, Joy, and Generosity

God’s grace brings joy and generosity among those who have little.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 30-31; 2 Corinthians 8

20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.                                  Proverbs 31:20

1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.                                                                                             2 Corinthians 8:1-2

Paul was concerned for the poor in Jerusalem. In an orderly way, he went about Macedonia and Achaia asking the churches to contribute to these needy brothers and sisters whom they had never met. [See The Importance of Giving to the Poor]. The Macedonian churches, those in Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, were themselves suffering from affliction and extreme poverty.

There were two surprises here. One, Paul told them about the collection even though they were in need themselves. He did not want to rob them of the joy of doing what they could. Second, they gave far more than Paul expected. How were they able to do this? It was a result of the grace of God in their lives. Surely, they grasped “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (vs. 9).

Proverbs concludes with a picture of the godly woman, wife, and mother. We have met Lady Wisdom and her counterpart Ms. Folly in chapter 9. Now only the wise woman appears. One of her qualities is concern for the poor and needy. She gives to them. She reaches out to them. She gives them resources and assists them in practical ways. Diligence, as exemplified by this woman, generally results in abundance. Abundance should result in generosity. Sadly, this is often not the case (Luke 12:13-21). One might think that poverty would squelch joy and generosity. In the Macedonian churches, the opposite was true. God’s grace makes the difference.

There is no greater evidence of the presence of God’s grace than to have joy and generosity whether in need or in abundance. What glory that manifestation of grace brings to God! Look at Jesus, today, and learn joy and generosity whether you have much or little.

Stability vs. Restlessness

Today’s reading: Psalm 124-127; I Corinthians 7:1-24

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.                                                          Psalm 125:1-2

23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.   I Corinthians 7:23-24

We, Christians, are called to trust in the Lord and to recognize that we belong to Him by virtue of the purchase of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We have no higher loyalty. We owe no one any higher allegiance. In Him, we have stability and security. Or, we should.

It is pleasant to picture the Jews of Ancient Israel trudging up the dusty roads to Jerusalem on Mount Zion singing the songs of ascents. They go with expectation of being in the holy city near the temple, and, most of all, in the Lord’s presence. The mount looks solid, and feels immovable. The psalmist helps them picture their trusting relationship to God as one which keeps them as firm as the mount itself.

But they are not left on their own, merely clinging to Him in the hope that they do not let go and end up lost. The song goes on to point out the mountains which surround the city. These remind them that God surrounds His people. When? Sometimes? Off and on? No! “From this time forth and forevermore!” What comfort! What peace!

Paul addressed the subject of the marital and socioeconomic states in which the Corinthian believers might find themselves: single, married to a believer, married to an unbeliever, bond servitude, freedmen, etc. There seems to be restlessness in some to change one or more of these states. What is the best state to be in? Paul says (in essence), “the one the Lord called you in.” There are advantages and disadvantages to any state in which they found themselves, but the important thing is to remember “you are bought with a price” and whatever you do “remain with God.”

Disciples of Jesus are first and foremost His servants, freed from sin and the restlessness that so often drives us to long for changes that seem to be desirable. Beware of that restlessness that may entice you to flee the very situation in which God has placed you for His glory. Being His disciple means trusting Him and being secure and fruitful wherever He has planted us. The grass is usually not greener on the other side of the fence.