Happy birthday, USA!

Today is Independence Day in the USA.  Americans celebrate 240 years since declaring independence from England.  Our readings (Psalms 108-114) have bearing on the fact that it is proper for believers to be engaged in the study of history as we see it as the wondrous works of God (Psalm 111:2-4). Although the United States was not founded as a Christian nation, it was founded by many Christians who believed in freedom of religion and speech.  For that we should be grateful.

Celebrate God’s providence in the history of your nation for He is sovereign over all the earth. Happy birthday to the USA!

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

Spiritual Drought: Getting through It

Do you go through times of spiritual drought?  David did.  But he did not accept it as inevitable nor permanent.  In today’s reading (Psalms 58-64) we can get help seeing how to handle those dry times.

In Psalm 63:1-3, look for David’s analysis of his condition, his response to it, and the outcome that he experienced.  Does this not suggest a path out of the doldrums of spiritual lethargy?  Try it and see.

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

Waiting Patiently

How long does it take to come full circle through the stages of waiting patiently?  That is, to move from despair, to prayer, to stability, to praise?  In today’s reading (Psalm 40-45), we find the psalmist going through these stages in what appears to be rapid succession.  Looking back he can report the progress as if it were almost instantaneous.  It probably wasn’t and won’t be for us either.  “I waited patiently for the Lord” he says (Psalm 40:1).

Are you waiting?  Are you patient?  Take hope in God’s faithfulness to bring you full circle in His time.  May you find peace in waiting patiently today.

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

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].

Seeing God’s Presence in the Daily Grind

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 17:1-18:30

Godly men and women trust in the Lord’s presence and guidance in the day to day details of life.  They don’t need extraordinary circumstances to spring into obedient action. They do what God calls them to and He makes it turn out for His glory.

Have you learned this truth?

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

God Created Man

Today’s reading: Genesis 1-3

As I think about God’s grace and power to mankind in creation, I am convicted by my lack of thankfulness and praise to Him. As I suggested in Cover to Cover, we can gain insight into the source of many problems of society by looking at how we have deviated from God’s original design for us and for creation.

But on the other hand, I would not want to dwell exclusively on all the things wrong with the world. We can miss the praise that is due God who has been so good to us. We must not become a bunch of sourpusses.

What is the cure for such a pessimistic outlook?

Is it not to praise Him more? To thank Him for big and little things that He has given us so that we may exist, flourish, and expect God’s final triumph over the serpent? Even in these opening chapters of the Bible, where the stage is set for human history, we have the certain glimmer of a final, definitive victory over the serpent.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

The fact that God said he would put enmity between the woman and the serpent and between her seed and his seed is a tip-off to how human history will unfold. If we see the battle raging, it should not surprise us. It should not even discourage us. For the offspring of the woman, we will learn, is Jesus Christ[1]. He has bruised the serpent’s head.

Let us begin this year with praise and thanksgiving. May it flow from our hearts, minds, and lips throughout the year ahead.

 

[1] See Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:34-35; Galatians 4:4

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Fleeing Idols

The Creator God rules over all things, including us, human beings. We are called to honor and submit to Him willingly and be blessed, but, if we will not, to suffer the consequences.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 17-19; 1 Timothy 6

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.                                                           Jeremiah 18:5-6

…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.               1 Timothy 6:15b-16

God reveals Himself in Scripture, but His revelation is not exhaustive due to the limitations of human language. In today’s readings, God compares Himself to a potter and His people to a lump of clay. Then in Paul’s letter to Timothy lofty language is used to describe Him. These descriptions are true, but, of necessity, are only able to capture partially all the majesty and splendor of the Holy, Eternal God.

As the One who created us, God is our God. We owe Him our allegiance, our obedience, our submission, our honor, and our worship. His Word should be our command. The Lord showed Jeremiah that He had rights over Israel in the same way a potter has rights over a lump of clay to make out of her whatever seemed good to him. But Israel was rebellious and embraced false gods and served them, totally disregarding their true and living God. They would pay the price by defeat before their enemies.

Paul’s words about God are set in the context of warnings about the dangers of loving money and seeking to be rich. The Apostle urges his young disciple, Timothy, to flee these dangers, to pursue godly qualities, to fight the good fight of faith, and to live a blameless life. Why? Christ will return, He who is King of kings and Lord of lords. He alone is immortal. He “dwells in unapproachable light.”

We, too, owe our God everything we are and have. He is our potter and we His clay. He is worthy of every exclamation of praise and every act of humble service that we can offer to Him. Praise Him. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In so doing, you will be fleeing the idols of money and pleasure.