God Uses People Warts and All

God works in and through people who are imperfect to accomplish His purposes and plans perfectly. If you are His, He has plans to use you warts and all.

Today’s Reading

Job 40-42; Acts 15:22-41

Selected Verses

So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.  And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:9-10

Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.  Acts 15:39b-41

Reflections

The focus of the book of Job has been on his experience of tremendous affliction as evidence to Satan of how a redeemed man serves God whether he prospers or suffers.  Job stood the test and we can all cheer at the end when God reveals Himself to that poor beleaguered man.  God is vindicated by Job whose mouth is shut in humility.  Job has been in our focus, but the three friends of Job were also under God’s watchful eye.  They were in line for some discipline.  They had spoken foolishly and ignorantly.  Job was exonerated, and they were rebuked.  God told Eliphaz to make an offering for their sin and promised to hear Job’s prayer on their behalf.  Eliphaz obeyed and he, Zophar, and Bildad were restored to the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas left Jerusalem unified.  They preached and taught the congregation in Antioch.  Everything was going smoothly,  but then they had a disagreement about taking John Mark on a second missionary journey.  They split up going in different directions.  How did they do? Both seemed to have fruitful ministries.  Paul, we learn later, had a change of heart about John Mark (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11).  Indeed, Peter later would refer to Mark as “his son” (1 Peter 5:13).

Think about it

God works through human instruments.  He used Job, Paul, Barnabas, and Mark despite their imperfections.  Others, named and unnamed, were blessed by their prayers, preaching, teaching and other service for God’s glory.  Can God use you?  Yes, indeed.  He uses all of His people for small and great purposes.  Be alert to the service He has for you today.

Surprise! Role Reversals from God

God in His Providence is able to surprise people by a switch in places either actually or figuratively for their growth in faith and godliness.

Today’s Reading

Job 16-18; Acts 9:1-22

Selected Verses

 I also could speak as you do,
    if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
    and shake my head at you.
 I could strengthen you with my mouth,
    and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.

“If I speak, my pain is not assuaged,
    and if I forbear, how much of it leaves me?  Job 16:4-6

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  Acts 9:13-16

Reflections

Job is weary of his trials which have only been increased by the harsh and hurtful criticisms of his friends. For a moment he imagines switching places with them. He says essentially that if he were in their shoes he could either be critical (as they have been) or he could use his words to strengthen and comfort them. It seems Job is claiming that if given the chance he would not do what they do, but seek to be encouraging to them. Later in Job’s story, we will learn that he does switch places with his friends and he has the opportunity to bless them.

Saul, who supported the stoning of Stephen and helped launch the persecution against the Church, had obtained arrest warrants for the believers in Damascus. On his way to bind others, he himself is stopped and bound in blindness by Jesus Christ. Saul changes immediately and follows the instructions the Lord has given him. Ananias in Damascus seems to know that Saul is coming to arrest them, but God tells him to look up Saul at a certain address and lay hands on him so that he may regain his sight. Ananias is understandably nervous and hesitant. But the Lord assures him that Saul is His chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles, kings, and Israel. Ironically, the man who was going to lay hands on Ananias to arrest him, had Ananias’ hands laid on him. What a reversal of roles that was!

Think about it

God’s Providence may have peculiar turns, but all is under His wise and sovereign will. You may get a surprise so be ready to trust and glorify God no matter how unexpected and bizarre those role reversals seem to be.

God’s Wisdom and Sovereignty

Does evil in yourself and in the world overwhelm you?  Scripture shows us that sin can never thwart God’s wisdom. He even uses sin for His glory.

Today’s reading

I Kings 1-2; Luke 22:54-71

Selected Verses

So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. I Kings 2:46b

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.  Luke 22:61-62

Reflections

Human history is filled with foolishness and wickedness, but God rules over all and uses even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10).

Adonijah was yet another spoiled son of David. Adonijah like his brother Absalom attempted to grasp the throne his elderly father had promised to Solomon.  Joab and Abiathar, David’s commander and the high priest, supported Adonijah.  David acted quickly and successfully to set up Solomon as the new king.  Solomon suspended the execution of Adonijah putting him on probation instead.  However, it wasn’t long before Adonijah made his move.  He asked permission to marry Abishag, the beautiful Shunnamite woman who had cared for David on his death bed.  Solomon saw where Adonijah was going with that request.  The young king applied the death sentence to his devious brother immediately.

Adonijah’s death led to Joab’s.  Within three years, Solomon had cause to execute Shimei for his violation of probation.  What was the result of all this? The kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.  God used the evil of people to bring about His purpose for the kingdom.

In another instance centuries later, Peter’s denial removed the potential obstacle of armed resistance by the disciples to the crucifixion of Christ. Christ’s death had to occur to obtain the salvation for all God’s elect people. On a personal level, Peter’s notorious failure taught him how great his need for mercy and salvation was. Peter had boasted of his commitment and determination a few hours earlier (Luke 22:33). But he had to learn the depth of his sin and the greater depth of God’s grace toward him.  God again used evil to bring about His good purposes both for Peter and for all His chosen people.

Think about it

Do you despair when confronted by evil in yourself and in the world?  Remember that God is wise and sovereign.  He will do all that He decrees.  He will be glorified even in the evil that goes on day in and day out.  His kingdom is far greater than Solomon’s and it will be established forever.

 

How God Uses Evil for Good

All things are not good but because God is wise and sovereign He uses all things for good. Some of those things are unspeakably evil.

Today’s reading

Judges 12-14; Luke 9:37-62

Selected Verses

His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Judges 14:4

But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Luke 9:43-44

Reflections

Samson had a promising beginning. The angel of the Lord foretold his birth. The Spirit of God came upon him. He had godly parents. But his character proved to be deeply flawed. Many of his failures had to do with his weakness for women.

Ignoring God’s law and his parents’ warning, Samson chose a wife from the Philistines. It grieved his father and mother. How could they foresee the victory over the Philistines his decision would bring about? Indeed, Samson would pay dearly for his foolishness, but God accomplished His will and defeated the enemy of Israel.

In Luke 9 we see Jesus at one of the high points of His earthly ministry. He delivered a demon possessed boy, and the crowd voiced amazement at the majesty of God (vs. 43). As they marveled at Jesus’ power, He turned to His disciples telling them of His imminent arrest.

Think about it

As incredible as it seems, Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion were not examples of history going wild and the world out of control. Luke reports the words of Peter in Acts 2:22-23:  “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

The most horrific and evil deed in all of human history, the crucifixion of the Son of God, resulted in salvation for all time for all His people.

While God commands us to be obedient to Him, He uses even our sin for good ends. Many know Romans 8:28 but too often forget it.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

We know it. Now, praise God that it’s true.

Is there a secret to the number twelve?

The Bible mentions the number twelve often. Can we know why? Or should we praise God  for His wisdom not yet fully revealed?

Today’s reading

Numbers 1-2; Mark 3:1-21

Selected Verses

These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house.  Numbers 1:44

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.  Mark 3:13-15

Reflections

Twelve tribes, twelve representatives, twelve apostles. It is hard to miss the repetition of the number “12” in the Bible even when you are not reading simultaneously in the Old and New Testaments, as we are.  There seems to be a certain kind of completeness in that number.

In our reading of Matthew, we saw this statement:  “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’”  Matthew 19:28

So there is a connection between the twelve tribes and the twelve disciples (later called apostles).  Is this fully explained?  I haven’t found it yet.  I am okay with not knowing all of God’s reasons and purposes now or ever.  We should not attempt to go beyond what God has made clear in His Word.  He certainly lets us know all that we need to know for life and godliness.  As the Apostle Peter wrote:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3

Peter went on to point out that the apostles did not follow cleverly devised myths when they preached the good news of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16).  Some have tried to make too much out of the secret meaning of numbers in the Bible.  It sounds a lot like cleverly devised myths.

Think about it

Even though God does not always reveal to us His reasons for the things He decrees, we can understand all we need to know to come to life in Him.  Perhaps when His kingdom comes fully we will know the reasons we do not yet understand.  On that day, we will have even more reasons to praise Him for His infinite wisdom.  Meanwhile, start now by faith praising Him for that wisdom.

What and Whom to Avoid

To speak or not to speak

Some things are not worth discussing or arguing about.  Which ones?  That is the question.  Some people are intent on causing trouble and division.  Who are they?  That is another good question.  How do we know who and what to avoid? Let us pray for wisdom in knowing when to keep quiet and when to speak and for understanding in deciding with whom to engage.

Today’s reading: 

2 Timothy 4:9-Philemon 25

My selection:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,  knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9-11

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.

 

More Biblical Irony

Today’s reading:

Matthew 2:1-5:20

My Selection:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:2-5

Irony according to my Google search is “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.”

The Bible is full of ironies.  In the Scriptures we find statements like “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).  That is biblical irony.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit.  Other blessings like comfort, inheriting the earth, satisfaction, mercy, and being called God’s sons all go to those who seek them according to the ways Jesus lays out.

Our Ultimate Goal

It is not that our desires are completely wrong but that our means to achieve them so often are.  Think about your goals and how you are seeking to reach them.  Biblical irony will enlighten you to God’s ways of achieving His goals.  If you seek His goals by His means, you will be using God’s wisdom to bring glory to Him.  His glory, after all, is our ultimate goal.

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.

 

 

God’s Purpose for Judgment

As we come to Ezekiel 38:1-40:37 today, we get an answer to the question “why does God allow His people to go through severe trials and judgment?”  [See Ezekiel 39:21-23].   You might think that if God chose Israel to be His special people that He would be sure they were protected from all kinds of difficulties.  In reality, God’s people are chosen to glorify Him and they could not do that without being disciplined and corrected.

One of my high school teachers was extremely stern, always demanding the best of her students.  She perceived that I was not doing my best and called me in to make me an offer I could not refuse.  If I would come to her classroom during lunch, she said, do the work she would assign, then for each day that I did this, she would add one point to my average for the grading period.  I spent many lunch hours under her watchful eye that year, but I benefited from the extra work and the extra credit.

God chose His people and He demanded that they give Him their best.  He did not let them get by with worshiping other gods or being negligent in obeying His word.  When their sin reached a tipping point, God sent other nations to defeat them and take them into captivity.  The bystander nations saw what God was doing and understood the power and glory of the God of Judah.

Has God disciplined you?  Be sure you are a diligent learner.  The watching world knows.

[For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Fools and Friends

The godly man or woman knows the difference between fools and friends.  Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed man does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly but delights in the law of God.  When we delight in God’s word, we have less time and motivation to seek the viewpoints of the wicked. We gain wisdom to find and keep truly worthwhile friends.  I hope that this summer you are delighting in the Bible more than any other book.

Here are our weekend readings along with verses on which I chose to focus:

Saturday, July 16 Proverbs 13-15 Handling Fools

Leave the presence of a fool,
    for there you do not meet words of knowledge. Proverbs 14:7 ESV

Sunday, July 17 Proverbs 16-18 Friendship that Sticks

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 ESV

May you be blessed and delighted as you grow in Jesus Christ,  deepening good friendships and avoiding fools.  See you again Monday.

For more on these passages see Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days available on Amazon in either Kindle ($4.99) or print format ($12.99).

Wisdom: True and False

Scripture, particularly passages like today’s reading (Proverbs 7-9), calls us to seek wisdom.  New Testament books like James emphasize the importance of wisdom.  Paul in I Corinthians 1 distinguishes between worldly wisdom and wisdom from God.  Not all wisdom is wisdom.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 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” ( I Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV).

To seek true wisdom is to seek Christ.   Beware of worldly wisdom that is really foolishness in disguise.

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