Escape the Vain Life

Are you exhausted from trying to meet everyone’s expectations? There is freedom not to live our lives in vain controlled by the fear of man.

Today’s Reading

Ecclesiastes 10-12; Second Corinthians 11:16-32

Selected Verses

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Second Corinthians 11:19-21


The book of Ecclesiastes closes with a final overarching statement about man’s duty.  Fear God and keep His commandments because you will face Him in judgment.  It seems to contradict the oft-repeated phrase, “All is vanity.”  All does seem to be vain, at times. Hard work may not be fully rewarded and crime may pay in the short run.   But all is not really vanity, because, God is going to judge every deed, not only those which are easily observable but the secret ones, too.  When we meet God, He will apply full justice.

Paul continues to admonish the Corinthians about their gullible trust in fools, those phony apostles who were doing Satan’s work.  He stoops to their level, in a sense, by defending himself and showing that his suffering demonstrates the authenticity of his calling by God.

The main reason people “gladly bear with fools” is that they desire to please them.  They fear rejection by others, even those whose opinion clearly is of no consequence.  They do not fear God, but fear man so they are easily manipulated, coerced, and led to foolishness.  Proverbs 29:25 shows that the way to freedom from this malady is by replacing it with the trust in God.

Think about it

Do you suffer fools gladly?  Turn away from this through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for this sin and gives His forgiven, Spirit-empowered disciples a proper fear of God.  This is the duty we owe to Him, our Creator and Judge.  Those who fear God may suffer for it in this world. But in the end God will approve them. He is the only One whose opinion matters.  Escape the vain life.

Now or Never: the procrastinator’s dilemma

Procrastination is the lie we tell ourselves when we don’t want to take important action or make a difficult decision. Here we see a classic procrastinator.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 41-43; Acts 24

Selected Verses

By this I know that you delight in me:
my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.
But you have upheld me because of my integrity,
and set me in your presence forever.    Psalm 41:11-12

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.  And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.”   Acts 24:24-25


Procrastination is not only the thief of time, but also the handiest and flimsiest excuse of those who have no desire or intention of taking some needed and radical course of action or making a difficult and important decision.  My father used to carry around in his pocket a small wooden disk with the inscription “TUIT.”  If I said to him, “I’ll do that when I get around to it,” he would smile, reach into his pocket, pull out the little disk and hand it to me saying, “Here, now you’ve got a round TUIT.”  He finally let me keep the round TUIT permanently as I always seemed to need it.

Felix, the governor, had power over Paul, his prisoner, but not over the God of judgment of whom Paul spoke.  That topic alarmed him, but, like so many others today and down through history, he deluded himself with the thought that he would think about it later, when he got around to it.

Believers in Jesus Christ are not alarmed by the thought of standing before the God of judgment.  Like the Psalmist, we know that the Lord delights in us and that, rather than be swept away in condemnation, we will stand accepted before Him forever.  The true believer has a desire for God not unlike the desperate need for air and water, so we say,

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.  (Psalm 42:1-2)

Think about it

Is that your mindset, that you must know more of God?  Do you crave His presence, His Word, His will in your life?  Beware of the Felix mentality of saying, “when I get around to it.”  Now is the time to seek the Lord, to study His word, to pray, to obey, to be in worship with His people, and to make diligent use of the means of grace.


None so Blind

The old saying, attributed to Matthew Henry, is true, “None so blind as those that will not see.”  So, what can we do if we discover we are blind?

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 6-7; John 8:21-36

Selected Verses

But Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense for all the work of the Most Holy Place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.  1 Chronicles 6:49

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”  John 8:23-24


Ever since the nation of Israel was constituted with the Law of Moses, the priesthood had been established with the system of sacrifices for atonement for sin as the central element.   It was such a significant part of the religious culture of the nation that one tribe, the Levites, were ordained to exclusively tend to the matters surrounding worship and sacrifices.  One family within the tribe of Levi, the descendants of Aaron, was eligible for the priesthood.

God designed the sacrificial system to show the heinousness of sin and the need for atonement, an offering to God for offenses made against Him.  But when Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, came who would be the One to bear the sins of His people, many displayed caution, skepticism, rejection, and hostility toward Him.  As we see throughout the Gospel of John, His origin was debated.  His words were parsed and doubted. His explanations were questioned and re-questioned.  The evidence of His authenticity was dismissed.

Now He plainly tells them that they will die in their sins if they do not believe in Him.  His whole purpose in life is to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21).  He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Faith in Him is a matter of life and death.

Think about it

Yet many refused to see.  The problem of sin has existed since the Fall of Man. God has presented His Son to be the atonement.  Is it not plain?  Is it not clear?  Why persist in unbelief? Why remain blind?  The old saying, attributed to the Puritan Pastor and Commentator Matthew Henry, is true, “None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.”  If your unbelief troubles you, call to Him for faith and the ability to repent.  If you see, give Him praise for His great mercy to you.

The Trap of Popular Opinion

Seeking glory from society is a sure stumbling block to believing the truth and to living wisely and godly.  Here’s a warning to flee the trap.

Today’s reading

Second Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47

Selected Verses

You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”  2 Kings 14:10

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44


Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated Edom. Then he called on Jehoash, king of Israel, for a face off on the battlefield. Jehoash called his bluff and told him to “be content with [his] glory.”  Good advice, but Amaziah wasn’t buying it. They fought and Amaziah lost badly, not only the battle but all the gold and silver in the temple and the palace. He would die in a conspiracy. He foolishly started and lost a war that was about his own glory, not God’s.

Jesus confronted the Jews who were increasingly opposed to Him and His teaching. He unmasked their motives. They sought glory from one another and not from God. No wonder they could not see that God had sent Jesus, His Son, and that there was overwhelming support for His claims. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own works, the Father’s approval, and the Scriptures all pointed to Him as the Messiah. Those who sought public approval and acclaim were too blinded by their pursuit to see and accept the obvious truth.

Think about it

Amaziah, though a king, fell into the trap of popular opinion.  The Jews who rejected Jesus were also guilty of seeking glory from their peers.  Our sin nature has an insatiable desire for glory.  Nothing will suffice.

How much does popular opinion affect your decisions and your viewpoints? Jesus calls us to follow Him, the One who did not seek glory from people. We will never follow Christ until we rid ourselves of the desire to please others. Follow Him alone and be free from the tyranny of the fear and praise of men. You will be glad in that hour when the dead are called to the resurrection of life and judgment.

The Hidden Consequences of Sin

Sin presents itself as an appealing, beautiful fruit hiding its deadly consequences. Are you learning to detect those consequences?

Today’s Reading

II Samuel 10-12; Luke 19:29-48

Selected Verses

And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.  David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.  II Samuel 12:15b-16

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.  Luke 19:41


The biblical historian lays out David’s sin here in great detail.  We are able to trace his downfall and learn how one bad decision led to another until he had committed adultery, impregnated another man’s wife, and had the innocent party murdered in the cover up.  It is a repugnant series of events, but it shows how easily a man after God’s heart can go astray.

To his credit David is prompt to repent, but there will be ongoing consequences of his sin.  He is driven to fast and pray seeking God’s mercy on his dying baby.  The sin which brought him short term pleasure came with an enormous price tag that continued for the rest of his life.

Luke describes Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem where He knows He will die, rejected by the leaders of His people.  But in the passage, Jesus weeps, not for His own suffering but, for the suffering of the people of Jerusalem.  He wept because they could have known peace, but instead they would experience destruction.  Even children would see the tearing down of their city.

Some, like David, see their sin and heed the call to repent.  Others, like the residents of Jerusalem, fail to repent of their sin and go on in it as if nothing were wrong.  Jesus, the sinless Son of God, wept over the sin of those who would not repent and find peace because their eyes were closed to it.  He wept for the suffering that was going to come.

Think about it

Do you repent promptly?  Do you weep over the consequences of sin like Jesus did?  We are never more Christlike than when we weep and pray for those whose eyes are closed to the coming pain of judgment for sin.  Let us take sin seriously, our own and that of others, and proclaim “the things that make for peace” to those who will hear.

The Danger of Presumption

Presumption is behavior perceived as arrogant and disrespectful. Presumption may not be a common word, but today’s reading shows it is a common failure.

Today’s Reading

I Samuel 27-29; Luke 17:1-19

Selected Verses

 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.”  I Samuel 28:15

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:10


Presumption may not be a word you hear or use every day, so let’s start with a definition.  The Google dictionary says that presumption is “behavior perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.”  A person with presumption is presumptuous.  Here we meet some presumptuous people and learn an important lesson.

Saul was facing a military crisis.  He had failed in all his attempts to find and kill his perceived rival, David.  Now the Philistine army was amassing on his border, ready to strike.  Saul had a long history of presumption.  He took matters in his own hands ignoring God’s law and Samuel’s instructions.  God had left him, but Saul presumptuously continued to seek God’s help and direction.  When he could not get an answer from God, he turned to a medium and sought the departed Samuel for guidance.  Samuel merely reiterated the judgment that he had already pronounced on the king, that he would lose his kingdom.  Samuel now added a timeline onto this verdict.  Saul would die, with his sons, the next day.  Saul was foolish to the end.  His foolishness showed itself in presumption.

Jesus told a story about a hypothetical servant whose master waited on him rather than observing the normal division of labor.  If that were to occur, we would charge the servant with being presumptuous, arrogantly accepting service from his master instead of respectfully offering service to him.

In another incident, Jesus healed ten lepers, an unheard of miracle.  Yet only one of the ten thought to return and thank the Lord for His mercy to him.  The nine were presumptuous.

Think about it

Presumption shows itself in our expectations, as if God owed us something.  It shows itself when we fail to be grateful for all our undeserved blessings.  It shows itself in failure to confess our sin and repent before God, asking for forgiveness of our presumption.  Let presumption not be common in your life.

Why we flee light for the darkness

Why do we run from the only Source of all that is true, good, and beautiful?  The answer is sin makes us love darkness. But In Christ there is hope.

Today’s reading

Judges 8-9; Luke 8:22-56

Selected Verses

Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.  And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal. Judges 9:56-57

Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.   Luke 8:37


Fallen mankind, darkened by sin, flees from the light of God and from that which brings peace.  Today we find two examples of this principle: the reaction to the healing of the demoniac man and the case of Abimelech and the people of Shechem.

The people of Shechem chose Abimelech, the violent, renegade illegitimate son of their former judge, Gideon, over one of his other seventy sons, like Jotham who showed considerable wisdom and leadership skills.  In the end Abimelech brought destruction on himself and all who supported him.  The logical path of peace and an orderly transition of power from the late Gideon to Jotham did not appeal to the society.

Jesus, in a dramatic encounter, delivered a man possessed by innumerable demons.  His symptoms included a lifestyle of homelessness, nakedness, and violent behavior.  They guarded him in chains, but even that was ineffective.  Jesus healed the man so completely that when people saw him, clothed and sane, they were frightened.

Why did the people react with fear to the healing of this pathetic man?  They saw that Jesus had power over demons.  They saw a herd of pigs drown.  A human being previously held in bondage to Satan found peace and sanity. But they did not find joy and expectancy of more good things to come.  Instead, they asked Jesus to leave them.  Sin-darkened minds prefer the dark to the light, chaos and violence to order and peace.

Think about it

Beware of loving darkness rather than light.  John wrote, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:20-21).   Apart from the grace of God, we flee from the light straight into the darkness and the arms of the enemy. Walk, by God’s grace, in the light (I John 1:7).

Where does sin come from?

Where does sin come from? Does it stem from ignorance or is the problem elsewhere?  God’s word identifies the real source of our disobedience.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 29-30; Mark 16

Selected Verses

But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.  Deuteronomy 30:17

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.  Mark 16:14


Moses warned the Israelites that their problem would not be that God’s law was too hard to understand.  It was not too far above them to grasp.  Their problem with keeping the law would be a problem of the heart not the head.  Their hearts would turn away from God’s word.  They would not love His law and that would result in their shutting their ears to it.  This would not result in mere agnosticism or neglect of worship.  They would begin to worship other gods and not Yahweh their true and living God who had delivered them by His powerful hand out of slavery in Egypt.  “Beware of your heart,” Moses was saying.

On the first day of the week, after Jesus was buried, several women went to the tomb with spices to anoint His body.  They worried about how to get the big stone away from the opening.  The women did not expect to find the stone rolled away, much less Jesus resurrected and gone.   But that is what happened.  They saw a young man dressed in white.  They were afraid, but they didn’t doubt what they had seen.  They told the disciples what had happened, but they got a disbelieving response.  Later there was another sighting of Jesus by two disciples.  Their report also fell on deaf ears.

Then Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples (twelve minus Judas).  He rebuked them for their “unbelief and hardness of heart.”  Again it was a heart problem that accompanied their refusal to believe.

Think about it

Where does sin come from? It’s a heart problem. God’s truth is not irrational nor hard to grasp with the mind.  But to believe we need hearts inclined toward God.  Pray that your heart will never be hardened or turned away from God’s word.  Beware of heart problems.

Handling Overwhelming Guilt

Who of us has not broken a solemn vow of some kind?  Where can we go with our overwhelming guilt?  In Christ there is an answer.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 23-25; Mark 14:51-72

Selected verses

If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.  But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin.  You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.  Deuteronomy 23:21-23

And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:72


The Mosaic Law held the Israelites up to high and noble standards of integrity and social concern.  There were numerous laws protecting the needy from exploitation by the wealthy.  Here we see a law concerning the making and keeping of vows.  Vows were made freely, before God, but once made they had to be kept.  People were not to swear casually, but to take seriously their commitments.  No cheap talk.  A man’s word was his bond.

Peter broke his vow to Jesus, to stand by Him even if it cost him his life. He shamelessly denied the Lord.  Peter was not the only one, but Mark gives us a close up of Peter’s cowardice and remorse.  The grief Peter felt when he heard the rooster and remembered Jesus’ words is palpable.

Think about it

Certainly we see the breakdown of vow keeping in our society.  We can’t trust each other. It’s easy to break commitments. We are quick to file suits but slow to keep promises.  Married couples divorce as if no binding vow had been made.

Who of us has not broken a solemn vow of some kind?  Who of us cannot identify with Peter’s rash vow and thoughtless lying to save his skin?  Peter could not keep his vow, not even for one night.  He needed an innocent Lamb to die for his sin, the broken vow and a million other transgressions.  So do we.  Jesus did that on the cross.

Do not get stuck in endless remorse and weeping.  Trust Christ, who bore our sins in His body on the cross. In Him we become forgiven vow-breakers. We even become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

A Warning about Causing People to Sin

God will not overlook the evil of causing others, especially His people and little children, to sin.  Here is a serious warning to heed.

Today’s reading

Numbers 30-31; Mark 9:30-50

Selected Verses

 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”  So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.

Numbers 31:1-3

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42


God’s final assignment to Moses was to bring judgment on the Midianites for the way they had seduced the Israelites into sin.  Indeed, as we saw in our March 1 reading, the Israelites paid a severe price for their foolish sin, but now God sends Moses to repay their tempters for causing His people to sin.

The disciples were beginning to show their true colors as the thought of Jesus’ death dawned on them.  They began to jockey for positions of leadership and wanted to curtail any would-be competitors that they had not authorized.  In a forceful statement, Jesus warned them of the danger of defiling little ones who believe in Him.  The Reformation Study Bible note explains that the phrase “little ones” may refer either to children or to those who are “insignificant believers.”  So the warning has broad application.  The disciples saw those who were not following them as insignificant and worthy of rebuke (Mark 9:38).

Think about it

Who are the little ones in your life? Are they children? Are they just the so-called insignificant believers? Remember that God holds them in high esteem.  He gave His Son for their salvation. Beware of causing others to sin who look up to you either because of your age or status. Treat them all as children of the King for, as believers, that is what they are.  If you have failed in this regard, repent of all known sin, confess to God and those offended.  Seek the Lord’s grace and forgiveness through Christ.  God has promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.