“…Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.” Nehemiah 13:2b.
Jase Roberston, of the Duck Dynasty fame, writes in his book Good Call, that when they discovered that his daughter suffered from cleft palate, they changed their attitude from “why us?” to “why not us?” That significant switch of perspective allowed them to face their daughter’s future with a fresh dose of faith and trust in God. He and his wife, Missy, embraced the story of the man born blind in a more personal way, holding onto the words of Christ with a newfound personal conviction: “…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:3b
Struggles produce resiliency and character when viewed through the lens of Christ (see Romans 5:3-4). Painful trials make you more compassionate and allow you to minister to others who have battles to face (see 2nd Corinthians 1:3-7). But no matter the tough spot you might find yourself in, remember the fact that God can turn a curse into a blessing. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
“Come and See”
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come”, he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. John 1:35-39
John 3:30 records John the Baptist, in reference to Jesus, announcing “he must become greater; I must become less.” John’s whole life mission was to point people to Christ. We see a glimpse of that in John 1:37. John sends two of his beloved disciples to follow Jesus. He lets go… he becomes less. In verse 40 we find that one of these men was none other than Andrew, a future disciple and the brother of Peter.
We see Andrew and his companion leave John’s side and begin to follow Jesus (literally). Jesus, feeling their presence turns and asks them “what do you want?” Of all the responses they could’ve given, they ask “where are you staying?” to which Jesus replied “Come and see.” I wonder if Jesus was smiling when he said it, I’d like to think he was. I’d like to think that simple question and ensuing invitation to join him would change Andrew’s life forever.
Jesus doesn’t give them an answer but he does give them an invitation. He invites them to come along to see for themselves… to join the adventure… to be near him… to sit by his side. In the process, they’ll get the answers they’re searching for but only in the context of proximity and intimacy with Jesus.
No matter what questions you have for God today… questions about past hurts, broken relationships, unexpected let downs at work, struggles in parenting or marriage, unforeseen sickness… over time He’ll give you the answers you desire, but He’s always going to reveal them to you as you “come and see” alongside him. Jesus rarely shouts answers from afar but he always whispers the just right answer when we sit with him.
“Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18, ESV)
I love the book of Proverbs. One of my routines is to run to this book in those rare times when the Scriptures seem stale or His voice seems faint. It is the kind of practical wisdom that just jumps off the page and helps me to re-engage with the Father in times of spiritual drought.
Did you notice the reasoning for discipline in our key passage today? There are two phrases worth noting as we reflect on this text. First, we are to discipline “for there is hope”. The NIV might have a clearer expression of this by saying, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope”. It is never too early to discipline, and it is meant to bring fullness of life to the child. In fact, this understanding helps the second half of this passage makes sense. “Do not set your heart on putting him to death” suggests that discipline does not limit the child or provide unreasonable barriers. Instead, those who fail to discipline “set their hearts on putting the child to death” by giving too much freedom without proper boundaries.
We want the best for our children and God the Father wants what is best for us. Discipline is a critical component in this training regimen. We are wise to recognize how the Father disciplines us in times of need. As parents, we “set our hearts on bringing them life” when we discipline. How is discipline expressed in your home? When was the last time you recognized the loving discipline of the Father in your life?
“A Turned-Back Heart”
“Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back” (1 Kings 18:37).
God is in the restoration business. Since Genesis 3 and that original sin story, God has lovingly and tenaciously reclaimed what is rightfully His. He has done this, is doing this, and will continue to do this through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Elijah’s battle against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel must have been a sight to behold. Today’s verse holds the contents of this prophet’s petition to the God who reclaims everything. Don’t forget the divine math in play that day. 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah stood against one man of God. Our LORD of Lords and King of kings did answer Elijah’s prayer. Fire poured down from heaven and consumed this prophet’s burnt offering. Some very wise Bible students have remarked that if God has a favorite word, His favorite one is “mine.” God is reclaiming heaven and earth, even when it doesn’t look like it, but He is especially reclaiming the human heart.
I have stood on Mount Carmel and looked over that beautiful and expansive valley below. I have wondered what went through Elijah’s mind on that faith-filled day. So much was in the balance. God is always the One who initiates every reclamation project, including you and me. Our response is essential, but we must never forget that He alone initiates a turned-back heart. By faith, we agree and submit to His purpose and plan, but God, Sovereign and Almighty, makes it all possible. “Today, Father, you have made my heart turn-back to you. I yield, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
Scripture: “What shall we say then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one…’” Romans 3:9&10
Devotion: Do you consider yourself a good judge of someone who is righteous and someone who is unrighteous? It sounds pretty easy, huh? Let’s take a test. Who is more righteous, Lindsey Lohan or Billy Graham? Gotta be the famous preacher right? How about between Mother Theresa and Lady Gaga? Really, it’s a no brainer isn’t it?! Well, not so fast. Look again at the verse above.
According to the word of God, the answer about righteousness to the questions we’ve asked is “none of the above.” The problem is we like ranking people on righteousness scales because it makes us feel better about ourselves, but this holy comparison game doesn’t tell the whole story. The story is that “we are all alike under sin” and that means we all need a Savior.
Understanding just how unrighteous we really are leads us to the one righteous thing we can do. We can believe in the God who saves us and His Son Jesus Christ. The first part of this letter says the righteous will live by faith (see Romans 1:17). Our rightness can only be found in admitting our unrighteousness and rightly believing in the one who became righteousness for us (II Corinthians 5:21).
Prayer: Father, All praise to your Name for making me righteous in Jesus. I’m sorry for the times I look down on others because they are so unrighteous and I’m sorry for the times I puff out my chest because I’m so self-righteous. Please help me rest today in the righteousness that comes by faith in your only Son. In His Name. Amen.
How will you escape being condemned to hell? Matt 23:33
This question is set in the larger context where Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being hypocrites. A sister text to this one is found in Matthew 3:7-8 where it states: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. . . every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” These texts refer to the Pharisees acting one way on the outside but have a different inner reality. They look and act religious but their hearts are far from God. They even come to be baptized but show no signs of repentance. Jesus teaches that a true follower of Jesus Christ produces fruit that is in keeping with repentance. Humility, submission, confession, brokenness, sorrow, gratefulness, love, etc. are the attributes or fruit associated with a person who claims to follow God through Jesus Christ.
Hell is a reality reserved for those who choose not to follow Jesus Christ. (Luke 12:5, Revelation 20:11-15) However, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
Questions to consider: Is my faith in Jesus Christ an inner reality or just an outward show? Am I marked by repentance? Do I produce fruit in keeping with repentance?
Prayer: Father, I praise you for not treating me as my sins deserve. I praise you for placing your wrath (from my sins) on Jesus instead of me. I praise you that through Jesus’ death and resurrection my sins are forgiven. Help me today to produce fruit in keeping with my faith and repentance in Christ.
“He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
My wife and I lived in Chicago when we were younger, spending a lot of time around homeless and the extremely poor. It was hard to fight what Richard Stearns in his book called A Hole In Our Gospel calls “compassion fatigue”. The rule of thumb that I lived by was that I didn’t give out cash on the street unless my gut told me, or the Spirit nudged me.
One day, as I was visiting downtown, I walked by an old lady begging on State Street and I’ll never forget her. I got it wrong that day. I typically didn’t make eye contact with those begging on the street, but that day I did. She was every bit 80 years old and had no legs. She had beautiful clear blue eyes and wrinkles in all the right places that told me the smile she sported that day was not uncommon. When our eyes met, my conditioning took over and I just looked away and kept walking, though the Spirit was nudging me.
After two blocks, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I walked back to where she was, but she was gone. Where she could have gone that quickly, I have no idea… often wondering if she was an angel and I was “unaware” (Hebrews 13:2). This proverb above challenges me. If I’m going to come down on the wrong side of giving, I want it to be that I gave when it wasn’t necessary. But I know that far too often I “close my eyes” to the needs in this world in order to keep what I have and to get what I don’t.
Lord, help me to learn to listen well, so that when You call me to meet a need, I will indeed deny myself something in order that someone else can be cared for. I don’t always know the balance of giving and keeping and I pray that you will grow me in this opportunity for good. Amen.