Competition for Glory

When God is ignored or rejected, the vacuum left is filled with something else, something which usurps the glory due to Him.

Today’s Reading

 Jeremiah 14-16; First Timothy 5

Selected Verses

Can man make for himself gods?  Such are not gods! Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord. Jeremiah 16:20-21

Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. First Timothy 5:7

Reflections

The messages in the prophecy of Jeremiah center around Judah’s failure to honor and worship God and the judgment that was about to come upon them. This judgment would spill over into the whole earth as God always has all the tribes, families, language groups, and nations in view, not only the Jews. Again and again the purpose of God to make Himself known to mankind comes piercing through.

In chapter 16, Jeremiah says, “to you shall the nations come” (vs. 19). The nations will come and confess that their fathers had believed lies and trusted in man-made gods. These were powerless and empty. God responds to this kind of confession and makes Himself known.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a special responsibility to be faithful to the Lord at every level, even in the matter of interpersonal relationships with older men and women, and younger men and women (First Timothy 5:1-2). Paul goes into detail about the care of widows, balancing corporate responsibility with familial obligations. There is a place for the church to assume a major role in the care of the true widow. Her character must be godly. She must have no other sources of support and be beyond the age of remarriage and childbearing. There were dangers of condoning laziness and sloth but also of selfishly neglecting widows (or others) who were truly in need. Paul’s thorough instructions aim to avoid excesses that would bring shame on the church.

Think about it

It’s all about knowing and glorifying God. That is why Judah existed and it is why the Church exists. Indeed, that is why mankind exists. Is that your purpose? Beware of other gods that creep into our hearts: self-glorification, power, prestige, pride. “Such are not gods!” Let nothing compete for God’s glory that you and–as far as it depends on you–His church be above reproach.

It’s About God

What is life about? The Bible tells us there is coming a day of judgment. Every knee will bow before God and recognize Him.  Life is about Him–not us.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 34-36; Philippians 2

Selected Verses

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
 it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Isaiah 35:1-2

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:9-11

Reflections

No matter where we open our Bibles and read, we are never far from the theme of the glory of God. His glory is proclaimed everywhere, but, between the fall of Man and the final judgment, humanity falls short of that glory. Contrary to popular culture, it’s not about us.  It’s about God.

Isaiah prophesied of a day of restoration when deserts would blossom and dry land would be refreshed. In that blessing of the earth, all would see God’s glory.

At the time of this writing, the eastern United States had gone through ten days of rain. In Virginia, our joy at seeing rain after weeks of drought began to give way to gloom as the cloud cover remained day after day and steady rain saturated the ground. Floods arose taking out a hundred-year-old covered bridge. We prayed for relief and for safety from trees falling before expected high winds.

Then on the eleventh day, here at Thistle Dew Farm, we woke to cloudless, blue skies. The sun shone brightly, drying up the mud and restoring the beauty of early autumn.  I praised God and I’m sure I was not alone.

Jesus knew the suffering of becoming a human, a servant, and a prisoner. He knew condemnation and the unspeakable pain of flogging and crucifixion. He bore that to save His people from their sin. God exalted Him and glorified Him. One day every knee will bow and recognize His Lordship. This will bring glory to God the Father.

Think about it

We live in a time characterized by fanatical self-worship. To be free, to be autonomous, to act however we please with no consequences, to be enraged that any one should call us to bow to God–these values rule our day. But it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Be sure you trust in Christ for forgiveness and life. Do not let the day of restoration be your day of condemnation. Your life and all of human history is about God

Unity for God’s Glory

Divisiveness is an ugly sin, but it will not be a problem where people seek God’s glory alone. True unity flows from a passion for God’s exaltation.

Today’s reading

Psalms 112-115; First Corinthians 1

Selected Verses

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!  Psalm 115:1

 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” First Corinthians 1:30-31

Reflections

The Psalmist prays a prayer that God loves to answer. He prays that all glory may go to the Lord and not to himself or his people. God does deserve all glory and those who give Him praise understand this.

Paul admonishes the Christians in Corinth who showed a total lack of passion for the glory of God.  He points out their deep divisions over their loyalties to various pastors and apostles. It was popular for these believers to identify themselves with one leader or another, forming cliques. One group even said they were “of Christ” as if the others were not.

The Apostle disavows any intention of creating such parties within the congregation. He tells them that God’s wisdom is contrary to the wisdom of this world which causes people to elevate themselves and seek their own glory—not God’s. The divisions will stop when they renounce this false wisdom and find their identity in Christ. He is their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Think about it

God blesses those who seek His glory, not their own, and God’s blessings will not be found by those who seek their own glory.  One of those blessings is unity with our brothers and sisters.

For us, believers, everything we need is in Christ. We ought to see ourselves as one in Him not divided in competing groups. Divisions often come from the desire for our own glory. Beware of ungodly affection that can grow in our hearts. There is but one way to the Father, through Jesus, and all of us who have come to Him are one with Him and with each other. Boast in the Lord alone.

God Will be Exalted

God rules over the whole earth. He is with His people at all times and no matter what overtakes them.  Ultimately, He will be exalted by all.

Today’s reading

Psalms 44-46; Acts 25

Selected Verses

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Psalm 46:10-11

To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well.  If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”  Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” Acts 25:10-12

Reflections

Psalm 46 reminds us that whether there is chaos in the cosmos or bloodbaths on the battlefields, God still rules over all things.  The believer is told not to fear but to be quiet and focus on the Lord who is over all the madness of men and the disintegration of the physical world. Nothing can stop Him, nor thwart His will, nor sever His people from Him.

Paul must have had a firm grasp on this truth as he was passed from one jurisdiction to another: from the Jews, to the Roman tribune, from Felix to Festus and from Festus to Agrippa and later to Caesar.  The arrested Apostle had stated his position, “not guilty.”  The charges weren’t sticking, but he was still in custody as a favor to the Jews.  He sought to maintain a clear conscience (Acts 24:16) and clearly stated that he would accept any sentence which was just, even death.  Festus shows confusion and ambivalence, offering to let Paul be tried in Jerusalem.  Paul appeals to Caesar.  The charges against him are not clear much less proven.  But Paul remains steady, trusting that God is using his testimony to the gospel in this setting before governors and kings for His glory.

Think about it

Do not be intimidated by the apparent powers of this world’s political systems.  God still rules.  Do not panic if it seems like the world may blow apart through some natural catastrophe.  In the midst of these kinds of crises, God shows His power and sovereignty.  Be still.  Trust Him.  He will be glorified.

Glory Stealing Can Be Fatal

It is a dangerous thing to receive praise from people and fail to give God the glory He deserves. Here are two men whose lives demonstrated this truth.

Today’s Reading

Job 29-30; Acts 12

Selected Verses

I chose their way and sat as chief, and I lived like a king among his troops,
like one who comforts mourners.  But now they laugh at me, men who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock. Job 29:25-30:1

And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.   But the word of God increased and multiplied.   Acts 12:22-24

Reflections

Job remembered a time when he had been at the top of the food chain. Everyone was in awe of him. No one questioned his decisions.  He had the final word. Now that has all gone. He is the laughingstock of his former kingdom. Now the people of low status look down on him.

King Herod played to the crowds but lacked any reverence for God. He found that executing James brought him popularity, so he arrested Peter. The Lord sent an angel to release Peter, but Herod just blamed the disappearance on the sentries and had them put to death. He left town for Caesarea. Meanwhile, the people of Tyre and Sidon sought reconciliation with Herod. His accepting their praise of him as a “god, and not a man” brought God’s wrath and his immediate death.

The difference between Herod and Job is that the latter attributed his prosperity and success to God. His losses were, to him, evidence that God had withdrawn His favor from him.  Job never stopped seeking God. Herod never began to seek God. Death was the last chapter in Herod’s life.  Suffering was only the mid-point of Job’s life.

Jesus asked the disbelieving Jews, “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).   God spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

Think about it

Don’t be clueless like the egotistical Herod or the faithless Jews who basked in the glory of man. Job knew that God was the source of all blessing, and he would learn that God’s ways and wisdom may not be questioned. Walk humbly giving Him all the glory, because glory stealing can be fatal.

Choosing which Glory to Seek

Everyone must choose which glory to seek: the glory that comes from other people or the glory that comes from God. We cannot remain ambivalent.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 4-6; John 12:20-50

Selected Verses

When the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good,  for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud,  so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”

2 Chronicles 5:13-14

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.  Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.   John 12:41-43

Reflections

In our reading in 2 Chronicles Solomon inaugurates the temple with the placement of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. The celebration was accompanied by a host of musicians and singers who lifted praise to God for His goodness and His steadfast love that endures forever. The Lord showed His acceptance of their worship by a cloud that filled the house. That was no normal cloud but the very glory of God Himself.  Even the priests could not stand to minister before this display of God’s majesty.

In John we find Jesus proclaiming that the hour has come for Him to be glorified (vs. 23). He prays for the Father’s name to be glorified (vs. 28), and the Father audibly responds that He has glorified it and will glorify it.   On a related note, John comments that many of the authorities believed in Jesus but would not confess this for fear of the Pharisees and of being put out of the synagogue. John concludes with these telling words, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

Think about it

Scripture from start to finish, from creation to final judgment, reveals the glory of God. The universe itself does the same. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” wrote David (Psalm 19:1). But never has the glory of God been seen more powerfully than in the person of Jesus Christ. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

Which glory do you seek, the glory from God or the glory from people? The choice is clear. We were made in His image for His glory.   Flee the empty glory of man. Seek His glory alone.

 

The Backdrop of God’s Glory

What a contrast in leadership: Pontius Pilate and King Solomon!  But against the backdrop of these two men we can see the glory of God in a fresh way.

Today’s Reading

I Kings 3-5; Luke 23:1-26

Selected Verses

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all other men.

I Kings 4:29-31a

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.  Luke 23:24-25

Reflections

Solomon is said to have “loved the Lord” and was walking in the statutes of his father, David (3:3).  God came to him in a dream and offered to answer his prayer for whatever he desired.  Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern the people God had given him.  God was pleased with the request.  He granted it and much more to Solomon.  Solomon was known for his wisdom both within the kingdom and internationally.

Under this wise king, Israel reached the pinnacle of its glory.  Never before and never again would there be such a wise king and a prosperous kingdom.  This golden age of Israel would continue until Solomon himself stopped obeying God and followed other gods (1 Kings 11:1-13).

By stark contrast, at Jesus’ trials (before the Jewish Sanhedrin and then before Pilate and Herod) the depth of foolishness is seen.   The Sanhedrin found Him guilty on trumped up charges and spun those to imply some sort of revolutionary terrorist status to Jesus. Neither Pilate nor Herod found him guilty, but Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and sentenced Him to death by crucifixion.

Think about it

We will see that Solomon’s reign demonstrates that even gifted, promising  leaders who disobey God will fail.  But the foolish and evil rulings of the Jews and the Romans that seemed to destroy Jesus’ life and ministry became a crucial element in God’s plan of redemption for all mankind.  The Church of Jesus Christ has spread to every corner of the earth.  Praise God that He is glorified in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.  He is glorified in the ongoing proclamation of the gospel throughout the world.  He has shown His glory against the backdrop of human foolishness. Praise God for His glory, power, and wisdom that has reached to you and me.

A Quick Guide on How to Do Everything

Why Is everything important?

Everything is important because everything we do is done before the face of God (Coram Deo).  Some things are routine and commonplace, but that doesn’t mean they are meaningless and useless.  Paul tells us how to do all these things the right way.

Today’s reading: 

Colossians 3:1-First Thessalonians 3:13

My selection:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

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.

 

The Right Question

Paul was not driven by a desire for self-preservation but rather by a passion to glorify God.  Will my actions glorify God?  That is the right question we should ask ourselves.

Today’s reading:

Acts 13:4-14:28

My selection:

 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,  strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 14:21-23

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.

 

 

Resurrection Implications

Today’s reading:

Matthew 27:45-Mark 1:45

My Selection:

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  Matthew 28:8-10

Christian faith is grounded in historical events beginning with the creation and continuing with human sin, consequent death, and God’s redemptive work leading up to the final judgment and our eternal state of heaven or hell.  At the center of these events are the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul argued that the resurrection is crucial to our hope.  See 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Soli Deo Gloria

The purpose of this whole drama of human history is this: “that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).  The reformers of the sixteenth century proclaimed “Soli Deo Gloria,” glory to God alone.  And we sing,

To God be the glory, great things He has done;

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,

And opened the life gate that [we] may go in.  –Fanny Crosby

Keep singing and trusting Him who conquered death and proved it by His resurrection.  And we by faith will share that resurrection that the glory may be to God alone.

For more reflections on today’s reading, 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.