Purpose in Life: Unchanging and Unending

Why do we exist? Is there a reason for being that is great enough and noble enough to command our hearts, minds, and wills from cradle to grave? Yes!

Today’s reading

Psalms 103-104; Romans 14

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.   Psalm 104:33

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. Romans 14:6-7

Reflections

For the believer, there is one clear lasting purpose around which everything revolves, to honor the Lord in life and in death.  Circumstances change; that purpose never does.

The Psalmist’s heart overflows in praise to God. God is due all honor for His being, His attributes, and His endless acts of kindness and love to His people.  There is not enough time or words to express it all.  As Fredrick Lehman put it in his hymn “The Love of God:

Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

Paul addresses matters that were apparently causing divisions between believers in Rome: the keeping of Jewish feast days, and the eating of meat previously offered to idols.  The Apostle points all of his readers to a place of common ground.  They are all concerned about honoring the Lord, or, at least, they should be.  That is the purpose of their lives.  They have been redeemed to glorify God.  The kingdom to which they have been called is not about what you eat but about “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (vs. 17).

Think about it

Are you focused on what really matters, honoring God?  We, who trust in Jesus Christ, can certainly agree that what matters most is His glory in and through our lives until He calls us home.  That will help us get along even when we don’t see eye to eye with each other on minor points. Let His glory keep you profitably occupied all the days of your life.

God is–the Challenge of Describing the Holy One

God is too holy to be described in human words, but we must try. When we have exhausted our efforts, we worship Him by ascribing to Him all glory forever.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 93-95; Romans 11:22-36

Selected Verses

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!  Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.  Psalm 93:4-5

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”   For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.  Romans 11:33-36

Reflections

How do you describe God? Psalm 93 uses an analogy to the highest human authority, the king. Admittedly, that comparison falls far short because God is a king whose reign always was and always will be. He is eternal. He rules, not over some limited territory, but over the whole universe.

How do you describe God? The Psalmist draws from the most powerful forces in nature: a flood, mighty waters, the sea. The waters roar. They sweep away everything in their path. But that is not an adequate description of the power of God for He is mightier than the sea. He is on high above it all.

Paul compares God to the wisest counselor or the richest man on earth. They could add nothing to the Lord’s knowledge nor contribute anything He lacks. The Apostle seems out of superlatives as he cries out, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Think about it

How do you describe God? Human kings make decrees, but they cannot guarantee their fulfillment. Maybe the kingdom will be overthrown. Maybe the king will die suddenly. The king’s decree is only a statement of his intention. But God’s decrees are “very trustworthy.” He is holy, set apart, completely other. Forever.

We cannot adequately describe God, but give it a try. He is worthy and accepting of all our feeble, but heartfelt, efforts to praise Him.  There can be no higher use of our minds and tongues.

The Wisdom and Faithfulness of God

When current events are perplexing, bewildering, and maddening, we do well to stop and consider the wisdom and faithfulness of God. He always wins.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 88-89; Romans 10

Selected Verses

 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.           Psalm 89:30-33

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”  But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”  Romans 10:20-21

Reflections

The Psalmist laments deeply the loss to Israel of God’s apparent abandonment of them.  He reasons that God’s covenant with David was to maintain his offspring on the throne forever, conditional on the obedience of his descendants.  Clearly the conditions were not met. David’s descendants were a sorry lot, for the most part.  After Solomon, the kingdom was divided and Rehoboam ruled over Judah alone.  Idolatry became the norm in both Judah and Israel.  Eventually foreign powers conquer those kingdoms and take the people into captivity.

But God promised to keep the Davidic line alive while punishing the rebellion of the kings in that line.  How would He do this? What did His promise really mean? We learn from the New Testament that God sent His Son through the Virgin Mary of the line of David to be the King forever.  Jesus was also called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29).  He took away the sins of the world. He became the High Priest Whose offering was perfect and removed forever the need for further sacrifices (Hebrews 10:11-14).

Paul longs for Israel to recognize their Messiah as their King and High Priest.  In another move showing God’s wisdom, He sends the gospel to the Gentiles, and they believed it.  Yet this move was, in part, to make Israel jealous of the blessing they were missing. Paul says that Isaiah had foretold this strategy.  Ironically, those who sought to be righteous by their own efforts [the Jews] did not obtain it while those who did not seek God and His righteousness [the Gentiles] found justification before Him by faith in Jesus.

Think about it

In light of world events and apparent chaos, consider the wisdom and faithfulness of God.  Praise Him that His ways are not our ways and that He has triumphed over sin and Satan. He has won the battle.

Praise and Faith When All Seems Lost

Praise of God and growth in faith build on each other. Praise builds faith and faith fuels praise even when all seems lost.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 70-72; Romans 4

Selected Verses

My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.  Psalm 71:23

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:20-22

Reflections

Much of the content of the Psalms is praise to God. But this praise is not isolated from the realities of life, the struggles, and the seemingly hopeless dilemmas that can come to the believer. In the midst of it all, the Psalmist frequently lifts up his voice in praise for deliverance experienced or expected.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, shows that the greatest dilemma of all is the problem of our sin before a holy God. No one is righteous. Not one. [Romans 1:18-3:20]. Yet, God manifested His righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ who shed His blood for the redemption of all who believe in Him.

Paul anticipates a question about the role of Abraham in all of this and carefully lays out the case showing that Abraham himself was justified by faith not by the law of circumcision or any other law. Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promises to make him the father of many nations despite his and Sarah’s advanced age, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness. In what might be considered an aside, Paul says, Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”

Think about it

How can you cultivate faith especially in what appears to be a hopeless situation? Learn the lesson from Abraham. Try giving glory to God. Give glory to Him for what He has done in the past. Praise Him for what He is doing now. Give glory to Him for His wisdom in answering prayers according to His purposes and timing. Perhaps you will see the fulfillment of your prayers, but, if not, God will be glorified and your focus will be where it should be, on Him not on your problem.

Two Ways to Live–Your Choice

Mankind is divided into two lifestyle groups according to a basic issue of world view. Both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings. Which one is you?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 62-64; Romans 1

Selected Verses

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  Psalm 63:5-7

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:21

Reflections

David opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. His attitude is like someone desperate for air and water–he simply cannot live without God.  He finds his satisfaction in Him.  The psalmist finds shelter and protection in Him.  He praises God with joy as he sings of Him.  To him, the worship of God is not a necessary and unpleasant chore for he finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God.  They have no time to praise Him nor give Him thanks.  They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. Their negligence is inexcusable because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20).  Rather than worship and thank God, they grow even more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals.  They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Think about it

We humans are united by the characteristic of being worshipful beings, but we are differentiated by the object of worship which we choose.  Mankind was made to worship the true and living God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for anything that is not God is less than Him. We must have an object of worship.  It is common to call our celebrities “idols”.  Why not?  We worship them and they encourage it.  But they are fallen creatures, like us, not worthy of worship.  God will  call them and us to answer for our idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is magnificent.  He is worthy of all our praise and worship.  There is only one true object of worship and there are only two ways to live. The choice is clear. [1]

 

[1] For further information go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

Stop and Consider

Does the biblical claim that God is our Creator to Whom we owe our lives and praise thrill you or irritate you?  Stop and consider who and what we are.

Today’s Reading

Job 35-37; Acts 14

Selected Verses

Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God.  Job 37:14

In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.  Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.  Acts 14:16-17

Reflections

God’s glory is set forth in splendor in His creation.  The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).  This is a truth as old as time and hard to ignore.  Yet Paul wrote that the unrighteous suppress the obvious truth of God and exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:18-25).

Elihu, in his monologue before Job, calls on him to “stop and consider the wondrous works of God.”  Elihu spoke truth displayed in the earliest event of biblical history: Creation.  He may have lacked love and compassion for his suffering friend, but we cannot accuse him of a falsehood at this point.

Paul brings up a similar declaration in his speech to the crowd at Lystra.  He credits God with all the blessings that they had experienced of rains and fruitful seasons, of food and gladness which brought satisfaction to their hearts.  He starts where they are human beings, just like himself, who have received far more than they deserve.

Think about it

God’s power and deity in the things He has made and the blessings He sends is clearly evident. Yet those who refuse to acknowledge Him as God are only angered or irritated by these reminders.  Fallen mankind, apart from God, likes to think that he is the captain of his soul and the master of his fate.  The claims of the Bible refute that view.  But stop and consider that,  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).   If you believe, be sure your praises go to Him often.  He is worthy of all our adoration, all day, every day.  If you doubt this, stop and consider.

Emotional Engagement

The life of faith is not a cold, intellectual exercise.  The presence of God manifested by His mighty works brings deep emotional engagement to the believer.

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 1-3; Acts 2:1-13

Selected Verses

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”  Nehemiah 1:11

And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?”  Acts 2:6-7

Reflections

News of the ruined walls of his beloved Jerusalem devastated Nehemiah.  True, Cyrus had ordered the rebuilding of the temple. Exiles had been allowed to return to do that work.  Now, decades later, Nehemiah learns that the city is defenseless.  He goes to God in prayer, a prayer that reveals his deep knowledge of the Lord.  Nehemiah mentions a fascinating characteristic of God’s servants that they delight to fear His name.

When the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples gathered together on the day of Pentecost, suddenly they begin to preach to the crowds in various languages.  And the people are able to understand them perfectly.   God was manifesting Himself at that time and place through His apostles.  The work of God, so dramatically revealed, stirred up all kinds of emotions in these devout men: bewilderment, amazement, astonishment, and perplexity.

Think about it

Do you think of a committed Christian as one who is cold and stoic?  We see in Scripture that believers most certainly feel deeply the power and presence of God. Do you think of fear as being antithetical to delight?  “How can someone delight to fear God’s name?” you may ask.  Yet the knowledge of Almighty God brings a proper fear and awe to the heart of the believer that is joyful.  The fear comes because we know Him to be Almighty, but that knowledge is also accompanied by joy in knowing that He can and will fulfill His Word and keep us safe until He gets us home to glory.  Fear God.  Delight in the fear of Him.  Be amazed.  Enjoy emotional engagement with God. Just don’t be cold.

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.

 

A Humble King

Fools seek power that is not theirs through conspiracy and murder, but there is a humble king who did not grasp the power that was rightfully His.

Today’s reading

Second Kings 15-17; John 6:1-21

 Selected Verses

Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place. 2 Kings 15:10

 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:14-15

Reflections

Shallum held one in a line of short-lived reigns on the throne of Israel. He came to the throne through conspiracy and the assassination of Zechariah. But his reign lasted only a month before he, too, was assassinated. The prophet Hosea would later indict Israel for their failure to seek God’s direction for their kingdom which contributed to all that instability (Hosea 8:4).

What a contrast to Jesus! He relinquished the glories of His heavenly status and came to earth. He began announcing the kingdom of God, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. The fickle crowds wanted to make Him king, but they had the wrong reasons and the wrong methods.  So Jesus disappeared to avoid that happening. He knew their hearts. They were only responding to the signs He did and wanted a king who could take care of their health and their hunger (John 2:23-25; 6:2). They thought of an earthly kingdom, but His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

Although Jesus was the rightful king of all Creation, His goal was not to be merely a king in this world. He would redeem  His people and be established as the Lord of lords and King of kings at the right hand of God the Father in His eternal kingdom (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 19:16).

Think about it

See how glorious and worthy is our King, the Lord Jesus Christ whose every action and decision showed love, grace, humility, and justice! Give Him, the humble King, the praise He deserves and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength today.

Manipulative Leaders

The problem of devious leaders is not new. Is there nothing we can we do about manipulative leaders?  No.  We can do more than just complain.

Today’s reading

II Samuel 15-16; Luke 20:27-47

Selected Verses

So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.  II Samuel 15:6b

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples,“Beware of the scribes.” Luke 20:45-46a

Reflections

How easily impressive, charismatic leaders with seeming power and wisdom lead people astray!

Absalom carefully mounted a campaign that would rival that of any of our current crop of politicians.  He spent money to equip himself with a chariot and horses and a company of men to run before him.  Then he made it a practice to station himself where he could talk to people who had legal problems.  He worked the crowds doing the grassroots campaign thing.  He made promises about the great improvements he would bring if he were in formal leadership.

In short, he stole the hearts of the people.

Then the day came when he made his move.  David’s support collapsed like a house of cards, and Israel followed Absalom as their new king.  It almost worked, and except for the providence of God it would have worked. The point is people are fickle and can easily be won over by a powerful person making compelling promises of a better life.

In Jesus’ day, the scribes were viewed with awe.  They were dignified, seemed to be spiritual, disciplined in piety.  Everyone recognized them.  At the same time, they used their knowledge of the law to take financial advantage of unsuspecting widows.  Jesus warned His disciples to beware of them.

Think about it

The problem of devious religious and political leaders is not new.  Certainly, both the Church and our nation need leaders of character and integrity, but those who rise to high positions are not always to be trusted and never to be trusted blindly.

Pray for our leaders both in the Church and in society.  Beware of those who veer off from God’s truth.  Do not be led astray.  Study the Scriptures and seek God’s wisdom.  And remember: we are not home yet.  Jesus Christ is the only true leader who is never manipulative.  Someday His Kingdom will come in full and He will be our truly wise and powerful and beneficent leader.