Archive for July, 2014
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).
As the church we need to recapture the idea of what is good. While Jesus would even ask, “Why do you call Me good” (Lk. 18:19)? and state that no one is good but God alone, we seem quick to say of anyone and everyone, regardless of the life they are living, “Yes, but they’re a good person.” If all are good then the message of the church is neutralized, repentance unnecessary, and evangelism unneeded. Goodness is not a natural default quality that can be ascribed to everyone. It is a fruit of the Spirit brought about by the conversion of new birth in Christ Jesus.
“For He says, ‘Order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there’” (Isaiah 28:10).
This daily devotional thought originally began four years ago in the desire to have a continuing role in the spiritual formation of my son while off at college. While I knew he wouldn’t read some lengthy treatise from his Dad each day, I knew that a bible verse and three or four lines of comment would be more realistic. In fact, this is the most effective teaching method for retention and learning. Few of us can block off large segments of our day to read or study as we might like, but we all have 5, 10, 15 minute bites of time throughout the day that, when used constructively toward the nourishment of our faith, has a very real cumulative effect. Spiritual food is to be taken in bites not blocks.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Self-denial is a matter one’s focal point. It is either oneself; your wants; your desires; or it is the cross, which inevitably makes it about others. Consider Jesus’ words in light of Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 word of the year…“selfie.” Strangely enough, it is the very thing we as believers are called to reject–a preoccupation with ourselves. He must increase while we must decrease.
“Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).
If you do not have freedom from your freedom then you are but a slave to your wants. Natural expressions of freedom are always self-indulgent and self-asserting, while Christlike expressions of freedom involve self-denial. Freedom is a privilege that comes with responsibility.
“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:44).
We often think of belief in association with miracles. The raising of Lazarus from the dead reminds us that belief is also necessary for simple obedience. Just prior to the miracle, Jesus directed that the stone be removed from the tomb. It seems strange that the One who could command the dead to “come forth” would tell others to move the stone and, then, remove the burial wrappings. Why not do all with just a word? It’s a lesson that God will never do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.
“when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it” (Joshua 7:21).
With deadly consequence, Achan learned that covetous desires are a poor substitute for covenant promises. Hopefully, while all are vulnerable to “things” that capture the heart, we would have the wisdom to know that “things” do not nourish the soul. Earthly wanting is but a temporal manifestation of a transcendent, eternal desire that dwells within. No food, drink, house, car, vacation, clothing label, or material purchase can meet the hunger of the soul. Christ alone is the fulfillment of our true desire. Everything else is a false imitation.
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? (Matthew 7:16).
It’s strange. Though I have no knowledge of or interest in the field of botany, I can readily identify any number of species of trees—apple, peach, plum, orange, pear, etc. This is possible not because they speak their identity or that they are gathered in recognizable orchards but, rather, it is because of the fruit they bear. As a professing follower of Christ I find myself contemplating, if you took away the profession of my lips and my gathering with the saints on Sunday, would the untrained and disinterested be able to identify me as a Christian? It is fruit-bearing and not religious platitudes that tell the true story of who and what we are.
“The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them’” (Matthew 13:28b-29).
Though instructed to be discerning, few have the maturity to do so without becoming judgmental. Every disciple is at a different place or stage in their relationship with Christ. Thus, no one person’s experience can be considered the litmus test for evaluating the genuineness someone else’s walk with him. I have also come to recognize that in the light of God’s grace, and the ministry of our Lord, my mercy is so limiting; that his is so much greater.
“Knowledge makes you arrogant but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-2).
The bible was never intended to be a religious rule book; offering a prescriptive response to any situation. Not all scenarios can be reduced to moral and immoral determinations. What Paul offers is a guideline for making decisions that reflect our understanding of what it is to be a covenant people. Instead of one’s personal rights it is driven by love for the brethren and the desire to see them built up and not torn down.
“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
Many within the church find unsettling passages of scripture that were intended to bring comfort, while being comforted by passages that were meant to be unsettling. Any mention of the elect, for example, conjures up the fear of what that might mean, when the intention of this wonderful biblical truth is the assurance of God’s faithful provision, protection, and presence. God is not the author of confusion but the Father of our assurance.