“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”
Psalm 73 has gripped me over the past week. I can relate to the author’s honest observations and emotions. While verse one starts with a declaration that God is “good … to those who are pure in heart,” he was truly discouraged by the apparent prosperity of the wicked (vs. 2,3). In various ways, we are prone to look at the unholy habits of our coworkers, neighbors and those in the limelight. If we are not careful, we begin to wonder why they are “getting ahead” in this life while we struggle in doing what is right. Most of us have been able to coach our children to remain faithful regardless of the cost … regardless of how “blessed” people seem to be living lives contrary to God’s standard. But if we are honest, we can grow weary in such a climate of “undisciplined disobedience.”
The psalmist makes an interesting observation in his despair. Verse 16 and 17 help us to see that his focus changes from the “sinners” to the Savior. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to reflecting, not on the disobedience of some, but on the faithfulness of One. Rightly, the author lands with an understanding and resolve that “it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Today as we cross paths with those who rebel against God, let us not “stumble,” but walk carefully in the ways of the Lord. He is faithful … and “it is good to be near God,” drawing our hearts and habits together with His glorious presence.
“Why I Read” (Part 2)
“So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked,
‘Do you understand what you are reading?’” (Acts 8:30)
I don’t expect anyone to remember, but last Tuesday I reflected on why I read. I told the story of King Josiah being read to by his friend, Shaphan the secretary (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34). Revival broke out and a nation was redirected toward God. I’m still thinking about reading today. In this instance, an unnamed Ethiopian, a God-honoring man, a Gentile, a treasury secretary, a big shot in the court of Queen Candice, had been to Jerusalem to worship. He was on his way home and reading aloud while driving. That’s not recommended in most States, not the aloud part, the reading part. I’ll give him a pass, since I confess I do this very thing myself. Apologies. The book he chose was Isaiah. An unexpected divine appointment had been set for the Ethiopian. Philip, the evangelist, sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, intercepted the traveler and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” A holy conversation ensued and ultimately this eunuch, an outsider to the Gospel and the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:1), became a Jesus-follower. Joy is the tone and mood of this narrative (8:39) and it all started with reading. Here is my testimony.
I read because I never know when God is going to break through. I read because I’m often surprised by joy. I read because it slows me down. I read because it reminds me that I am not alone. I read because God longs to read me and thereby invite me into a holy, life-changing conversation. Amen.
Scripture: “‘You don’t know what you are asking,’” Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?’ ‘We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.’” Mark 10:38&39
Devotion: This conversation is a result of a request that two of Jesus’ apostles made about being the number one and two guys in His kingdom. The men were the brothers James and John and they were thinking of Jesus in terms of earthly power. What they didn’t realize fully was that Jesus was going to reign by dying and conquering Satan’s hold on our lives through sin. He knew He was going to drink the cup of death and be baptized in an earthly grave. So he asked if James and John could do the same.
Being tough guys, they claimed they could. If they had only known then what they were saying, they may not have been so anxious. Indeed, they did drink Jesus’ cup. James was killed by the sword of Herod and John was exiled, beaten and jailed several times before his natural death. Of course, they won in the end because they inherited a kingdom that was eternal…and by then they had learned not to want to be number one and two. They were simply glad to be in the kingdom!
What about you? Do you want the good part of Jesus and not the challenges? He asks us the same question you know, “Can you drink the cup I drink?” Your answer may reveal your commitment to Him today.
A faithful king . . . an earnest prayer . . a merciful God.
I and II Kings describe the times when earthly kings ruled God’s people (Israel and Judah). Hezekiah was one of those kings and he was one of the few kings who followed the Lord God.
“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him.” (II Kings 18:5-7a)
Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The Lord told Hezekiah through the prophet, Isaiah, that he was going to die from the illness. Hezekiah responded by earnestly praying . . .
“Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in our eyes. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (II Kings 20:3)
Not more than a few minutes later God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life.” (II Kings 20:5)
The Lord always answers our prayers. It is not always in the way that we want or in our timing. In this case a faithful king made an earnest prayer and the Lord was merciful and healed him.
Spend some time praying. Earnestly lay out your heart, requests, and life before the Lord. Trust in the Lord for his will to be done and for his timing to be right in answering your prayers.
“In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them.” Proverbs 22:5
If you’re familiar with the book of Judges, you know that the book ends in a miserable way. It’s a beautiful thing that it is followed by the story of Ruth, because frankly, Judges, in particular the last two chapters, are a real downer for me.
In a nutshell, the nation of Israel gets caught in a cycle of sin and by the end of the book sexual sin and violence create a storm that leaves a real mess in its wake. When I meditate on Judges, I’m struck by the fallout of sin. Our world is full of sin and the inevitable consequences that it plays out in our lives, in our families and in our society. Sin has an appealing promise that it will deliver pleasure. But sin is a liar… deceptive and crafty. What it promises, it never delivers.
Our sins have fallout. Some sins carry more public fallout than others, but all sins take their toll on our souls. Most sins have consequences in the lives of the people we love. If a path is full of “snares and thorns,” you would think we would take the other path… but we don’t always make that choice. Our own fleshly nature, often times combined with some outside source of temptation, beckons us down the path of the wicked. Once we’re tangled in the briars of sin, regret sits in and we wish we would have “guarded our souls” from the deceptiveness of sin. Like Israel, who was careless to allow the outside world have sway with their souls, we would do well to repent and draw near to the word of the Lord, walk in His ways, not turning to the right or to the left.
“Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” – Acts 27:26
In Acts 27:10-39 we find the apostle Paul, Luke, and 274 other men on a sea journey to Phoenix. On this journey they encountered a hurricane force storm called the “Northeaster”. It was during this storm that the Apostle Paul received a vision that everyone’s life would be spared. In verse 25, Paul boldly stands among these terrified men and tells them to have courage; that God has promised to deliver them. That’s what makes verse 26 so ironic. After challenging these men to have courage, he tells them “we’re going to run aground on some island.”
God’s promise of deliverance in our lives rarely works itself out how we thought it should. Look at our text again, these men were praying for calm winds and seas. God delivered them through the shipwreck. It’s as if God said, “I’m going to save you, but not before I strip away the earthly stuff you’re depending on.” We also see in this scripture that deliverance isn’t necessarily the same thing as safety and security. Sometimes God doesn’t rescue us from life’s circumstances but through them. Finally, God’s promise of deliverance doesn’t mean we get to know all the details. I’m sure the men on deck were ready for a detailed plan. What they got was a reminder that God is in control, they’re not, and He’ll save them in his own way.
Whether you’re sailing through life with blue skies or in the middle of the storm taking on water, remember this truth. . There were 274 sailors throwing things overboard in an attempt to save themselves, but Paul prayed and God delivered. He always does. In his own perfect timing.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Philippians 1:27-28a).
Paul initially wrote these words to encourage the Philippians to live as citizens of another world, even while enveloped in the present world. Paul tells the believers that he might see their faith personally or hear of their faith second-hand. Either way, he wants a good report! He wants them to have a “manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ” … and he reminds them that word will spread about their faithfulness. They are to “stand firm” and to be of “one spirit.” In short, the followers of Christ are to remain faithful and unified.
The same is true for us today. Our faith is on display. Our “manner of life” is witnessed first-hand and discussed second-hand. This message is as potent and appropriate today as it was in 62 A.D. Our behavior in public should mirror the beliefs we express in the church. Whether we are seen by our neighbor, our pastor, our mail carrier, our kids, or our small group member, we should be confident that our “manner of life” is consistent with our profession of faith. Today, may we be found living in a manner “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Today, may each of us “stand firm” in our faith and be of “one spirit.” Today, may we not be frightened by any opposition. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.