“Don’t Be a Miserable Comforter!” August 12

 

Don't be a miserable comforter! - Most of us will have opportunities in life to offer comfort to those suffering and grieving. Will you be a miserable comforter like Job's friends or be able to offer "a word fitly spoken" (Prov. 25.11)?Most of us will have opportunities in life to offer comfort to those suffering and grieving. Will you be a miserable comforter like Job’s friends or be able to offer “a word fitly spoken” (Prov. 25.11)?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 15 & 16
Psalm 94.20-23
Proverbs 22.28-29
Romans 11.19-36

 

Don’t be a miserable comforter!

 

Job 15 & 16:

Job’s Miserable Comforters

 

Eliphaz and Job’s other “comforters” were faced with a dilemma most of us are faced with at one time or another—how to speak truth and yet bring comfort when someone else is suffering.

We can be faced with this dilemma when an unbeliever dies, for example. How do you comfort the family without giving false hope about the basis of salvation? We can’t say we are sure their loved one is in heaven, but we can say that no one knows a person’s heart except God alone. Only He knows what transpired in the past, or even in the days or moments before death. We can encourage the surviving loved one to trust in the goodness and perfect judgment of God.

It’s also an opportunity to share with the family the importance of being sure they are in right relationship with God and not leave their family wondering about them should something tragic happen.

Families also need comfort when they or someone close to them is suffering. This can be because of the illness of a child or spouse, a divorce, or some other tragedy.

In the beginning, often the best thing we can do is just be there … with a hug, a listening ear, or just our presence. What we don’t want to do is lecture them and act like we know what is going on in the mind of God like Job’s “comforters” did. Job ended up calling them “miserable comforters” (Job 16.2)!  Continue reading

“Why me? Why now? Why my family?” August 11

 

Why Me? Why Now? Why My Family? -

 

“Why me?” It’s a question that is often on our lips. Why is this happening? Why me? Why now? Why my kids, my family, my job, my health? But … are we asking the right questions?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 13 & 14
Psalm 94.12-19
Proverbs 22.26-27
Romans 11.1-18

 

Why me? Why now? Why my family?

 

Job 13 & 14:

Demanding Answers

 

In chapter 13, after strongly rebuking his friends, Job turns his attention directly to God. He is at a loss to understand why all this calamity has come on him. In chapter 14 he talks to God about the frailness of humanity and seems to prepare himself to die, perhaps even yearning for it.

Be sure to read MacArthur’s notes for today’s readings. He jumps ahead to some of the later chapters as he explains that Job’s problem was not the belief that he was righteous, as his friends thought, but his over-familiarity in demanding an answer to why he was suffering such hardship.

We, too, can be tempted to demand answers to our “whys.” While I don’t believe God is put-off by sincere questions from his hurting children, we need to remember that He is God and we are not! Isaiah 55.8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

In chapter 40 we will see Job’s reaction after God responded to all his why’s. He said, “I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40.4).

So what should we ask when going through a test or trial?  Continue reading

“Contagious Sins: Could You Be at Risk?” August 10

 

Contagious Sins: Could you be at risk? - We take every precaution with deadly diseases like ebola or zika, but there are diseases of the soul that are just as deadly. How are you protecting yourself from contagious sins?We take every precaution with deadly diseases like West Nile or Lyme disease, but there are diseases of the soul that are just as deadly. How are you protecting yourself from contagious sins?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 11 & 12
Psalm 94.1-11
Proverbs 22.24-25
Romans 10.1-21

 

Contagious Sins

 

Proverbs 22.24-25:

Could You Be at Risk?

 

Certain sins are easily caught from others. Could there be people in your life whose friendship is a danger to your walk with God?

“Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (vss. 24-25).

Anger is one; so are gossip, cursing, and other sins, especially those of the tongue. If you hang around people who practice those things, you will become less and less bothered by them and eventually begin to join in.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’ ” (1 Cor. 15.33).

Jesus said we’re to live in the world, but not be of it (Jn. 17.14-15). And the Apostle Paul warned us about being closely associated with unbelievers.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Cor. 6.14).

So while we are to have relationships with people outside the faith and use those opportunities to be salt and light, they should not be our closest friends and partners.

But it can be just as dangerous, maybe more so, to hang around with professing believers who act like the world!

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person (1 Cor. 5.9-11).

God, certainly calls us to try to reach our sinning brothers and sisters (Gal. 6.1-2; Heb. 3.13), but if there is no repentance we’re aren’t to continue acting as if it’s no big deal.

 

Contagious Sins: Could you be at risk? - We take every precaution with deadly diseases like ebola or zika, but there are diseases of the soul that are just as deadly. How are you protecting yourself from contagious sins?


Today’s Other Readings:

 

Job 11 & 12:

Love Believes the Best

 

Now it’s Zophar’s turn to speak to Job about his troubles. He can’t believe what he is hearing. He is sure that Job is guilty of some serious sin, so he rebukes him sharply.

While Job agrees with Zophar’s assessment of God’s wisdom, power and sovereignty and he doesn’t claim to be perfect, he strongly condemns his simplistic conclusion.  Continue reading

“When Life Is Hard & Confusing” August 9

 

When Life Is Hard & Confusing - There will be times in all of our lives when life doesn't make sense. It may be because of sickness or some tragedy. It may be the loss of a relationship or watching a child walk away from the Lord. It may be because of someone else's sin or just our circumstances, but there are times when life is hard and confusing. If we're not in one of those difficult times, what can we do now to be ready when they come?There will be times in all of our lives when life doesn’t make sense. It may be because of sickness or some tragedy. It may be the loss of a relationship or watching a child walk away from the Lord. It may be because of someone else’s sin or just our circumstances, but there are times when life is hard and confusing. If we’re not in one of those difficult times, what can we do now to be ready when they come?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 9 & 10
Psalm 93.1-5
Proverbs 22.22-23
Romans 9.16-33

 

When Life is Hard & Confusing

 

Job 9 & 10:

Preparing for the Hard Times

 

In these two chapters Job responds to his friend Bildad. He’s confused because he holds to the same basic belief as his friends—that all troubles come as a direct result of one’s own sin. So, while he knows he’s not sinless, he struggles to understand how he deserves the degree of suffering he’s enduring.

But he holds on to the truths he does understand. In verse 32 speaking of God, he says:

“He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.”

pointing upHe understands that he and God are not equals, that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are far above our thoughts (Is. 55.8-9).

Understanding that truth helped Job and can help us accept things in our lives that we don’t understand. And there will be things this side of heaven which don’t seem fair, things for which God has a higher and a bigger purpose than we know.

A pastor I know went through a dark depression years ago when his son walked away from the Lord. He said anything he had called depression before that time didn’t even come close. While he still believed the truths he had taught for many years, including the reality of God’s goodness and sovereignty, the darkness continued.  Continue reading

“Suffering & Sin” August 8

 

Suffering & Sin - While we don’t know another’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, ... can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering?While we don’t know another person’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering or, at least, make it worse?

Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, do you know what that mission is and are you being a good steward of it?

And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, were raised in a Christian home, have “always believed in God,” have been baptized, taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 7 & 8
Psalm 92.8-15
Proverbs 22.17-21
Romans 9.1-15

 

Suffering & Sin

 

Job 7 & 8:

Soulcare

 

In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.

Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”

In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering, which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1.1).

That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But sometimes we respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or in other sinful and self-defeating ways.

confronting comfortingAnd there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1-2).

How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sinful response to another person’s sin?

Continue reading

“Biblical Hope & Eternal Security” August 7

 

eternal security

What is biblical hope? Is it the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope? And what about eternal security? Can a believer lose his salvation?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 5 & 6
Psalm 92.1-7
Proverbs 22.16
Romans 8.22-39

 

Biblical Hope & Eternal Security

 

Romans 8.22-39:

Biblical Hope

 

Verses 24-25, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

fingers crossedBiblical hope is not the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope, as if something might happen.

Although it has not yet happened, biblical hope is a sure thing, because it is based on God’s promises.

Paul gives us some of the greatest examples of biblical hope in the remainder of this chapter! Verses 28-30:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In verse 28 He promises to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Notice it said all things! Is that thing you are going through part of the all things? Yes! (Notice, Paul didn’t say all things are good, but that God would use them for good.)

In verse 29 He says that God has predestined us to be like Christ. If we are truly saved, God is working in our lives to make us more like His Son, and sometimes, He uses tests and trials and difficult people to do that. Instead, of murmuring and complaining we need to see it as God’s hand molding and shaping us.

But God’s promises in this chapter don’t end there.

 

Eternal Security

 

eternal securityThen he says, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (vs. 30). We won’t be glorified until we get to heaven. That means if He called us and justified us (made us right with Him), He will glorify us. We will not lose our salvation somewhere along the line! What a great promise of our eternal security!

If that’s not enough and to be sure we get it, Paul asks the question:  Continue reading

“Running to God When We Want to Run Away” August 6

 

Life, including pain and heartache, happens to us all, but if we don’t know the essential character of God, we will be tempted to blame Him and run away, instead of running to God when we need Him the most.

Also, read about “the rod of correction” when it comes to parenting and one of the most freeing verses in the Bible.

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 3 & 4
Psalm 91.14-16
Proverbs 22.15
Romans 8.1-21

 

Running to God When We Want to Run Away

 

Job 3 & 4:

The Essential Character of God

 

In chapter 3 Job poured out his grief in very descriptive terms. He had just lost all 10 of his children. His grief was real and powerful. He wished he had never been born.

While today we might not tear our clothing and put dust on our heads, those who are grieving will almost always express their deep sorrow—through tears, wringing of the hands, crying out to God, etc. Strong emotions and outward manifestations of grief are not wrong, but must be kept in their proper place, amount and duration. They cannot be allowed to overtake our lives.

Remember what Job’s first response was after the initial shock and physical reaction (Job 1):

21 And he said:“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

Though he didn’t understand the “why,” Job knew the essential character of God. If you’re struggling to understand or accept God’s circumstances in your life, don’t run from God; run to Him. Get to know Him better. Learn about His attributes—beginning with His goodness, His mercy, and His holiness. Knowing Him will enable you to trust Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

 

Running to God - Life, including pain and heartache, happens to us all, but if we don't know the essential character of God, we will be tempted to blame Him and run away, instead of running to God when we need Him the most. Also, read about "the rod of correction" when it comes to parenting and one of the most freeing verses in the Bible.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 91.14-16:

Those Who Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty

 

Verse 14 begins with God saying, “Because he has set his love upon Me …” MacArthur defines that word love as “ ‘a deep longing’ for God or a ‘clinging’ to God.”

Is that you? Do you long for God? Do you long to know Him? Do you cling to Him in times of trouble, or doubt, or fear? God isn’t looking for strong, independent people, He’s looking for those who will be dependent upon Him—who will “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91.1).  Continue reading

“God & Satan, Heavenly ‘Battle of the Bands’?” August 5

 

"Satan & God, Heavenly 'Battle of the Bands'?" - The battle is raging and we see evidence of it all around us. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves. But is it really a fair fight?The battle is raging and we see evidence of it all around us. Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy all that God loves. But is it really a fair fight?

Also, read about how “lions” can keep us from moving forward with the plans and purposes God has for us.

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 1 & 2
Psalm 91.7-13
Proverbs 22.13-14
Romans 7.1-25

 

God & Satan, Heavenly “Battle of the Bands”?

 

Job 1 & 2:

Adversary, but Not Equal

 

The book of Job may be one of the least understood books in the Bible. So let’s pray that God will give us fresh insight into this book. Remember “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable …” (2 Tim. 3.16).

The book starts out in “God’s heavenly courtroom” and helps us understand that not everything that happens is the result of sin in a believer’s life. Sometimes God allows something for His holy, just and righteous purposes. There were many such purposes in what was going on here in the book of Job.

This wasn’t some “battle of the bands” between God and Satan. First, even though Satan is God’s adversary, he is not God’s equal! He is a created being who cannot do anything in the life of a believer without God’s permission.

Everything in our lives has been filtered through God’s loving hands and He promises to use it all for our good (Rom. 8.28). But we can believe that only to the degree we know Him, know His character, and understand His love for us.

Even when, for His divine purposes, God allows Satan some entrance into a believer’s life, He sets limits on it (Job 1.12, 2.6). 1 Corinthians 10.13 says:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

God knows what we need in our lives to develop us as believers, but will not allow more than we can handle if we will rely on Him. It’s not about what we can handle in our own strength, but about what He wants to do in and through us. One of His good purposes is, often, to help us learn to rely on Him in a greater way.

Even though Job never knew what went on in heaven, God recorded it in His Word for our benefit (1 Cor. 10.11), to help us understand and trust that God is always in control.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 91.7-13:

Satan and Scripture

 

This beautiful psalm pictures God’s care for His children. It’s interesting that the devil quoted verses 11 & 12 during Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4.1-13). You see, the devil knows the Scriptures, too, but twists them to suit his evil purposes. In Luke 4 he misused this passage in an attempt to get Jesus to do something foolish. He tried to get Him to jump off the pinnacle of the temple by saying, in effect, “If God has commanded His angels to take care of You, You can just go ahead and jump!” Continue reading

“Our Hope in Trials & Uncommon Friends” August 3

 

Our Hope in Trials

Tests and trials: no one likes them. We don’t pray for them. In fact, we pray to avoid them. But trials come to everyone. So, what is it that sustains us in trials? What gives us hope? You might be surprised.

Also, read about the quality of friendship. You see, common friends are … well … common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends … are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 7 & 8
Psalm 90.7-17
Proverbs 22.10-11
Romans 5

 

Hope in Trials & Uncommon Friends

 

Romans 5:

Saved by Grace and Kept by Grace

 

In the previous chapters Paul explained salvation by grace—how God saves sinners through the free gift of salvation based on our faith in Christ. Here in chapter 5 Paul explains how, as sinners saved by God’s grace, we are kept by the same grace—how it is God and God alone who is able to present us, “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). No amount of good works could save us and no amount of good works can keep us! I hope you’ll take the time to read this chapter for yourself, if you haven’t already.

 

The Gospel: Our Hope in Trials

 

But let’s take a closer look at the first five verses:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Verse 8 goes on:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You may have heard the expression, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” Have you thought about what that means? We typically think of the gospel as a one-time thing, something we accept once and then move on to Christian living. But we need the gospel everyday. A true understanding of all that the gospel encompasses makes living the Christian life a joy. It’s what sustains us in trials and encourages us when we fail.

We need to remind ourselves that God loved us even while we were still sinners. Christ died for us knowing full well every sin we would ever commit and every time we would reject Him. If we understand that He loved us then, we will better trust that He won’t reject us when we fail.

He died for every sin whether committed before and after we come to know Him. Rather than giving us a license to sin, fully comprehending that should help us to love Him back, desire to live to please Him, and to love others with the same kind of love.

We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4.19).

But don’t miss verses 3-5. As we come to fully understand the gospel, we can trust God when we’re going though a trial. We should remind ourselves that the God who loved us enough to die for us, will not allow any test or trial in our lives that He won’t use for our good. We can trust Him to walk through it will us, to sustain and strengthen us, to grow our faith, and to help us mature to become more and more like His Son.

 

Proverbs 22.10-11:

Common or Uncommon?

 

Uncommon Friends - Common friends are ... well ... common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends ... are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?


Two of the words used to define “common” are ordinary and unexceptional. But what does an “uncommon” or true friend look like? How does he speak? What are her motives?

Verse 11 says:

“He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.”

This verse reminds me of a book I read many years ago called Uncommon Friends about a man by the name of James Newton who became friends with Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and others because of the quality of his friendship.

What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend? Do you have “purity of heart” and “grace on your lips”?

Being an uncommon friend doesn’t mean constantly flattering the other person. In fact, Proverbs 27. 6 says the opposite:

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Someone who is “pure in heart” wants the best for his or her friend. Sometimes that means “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15). But being “pure in heart” also means being willing to sacrifice for your friend. Sometimes real friendship is inconvenient, but when you love someone, it’s not a burden.

What is the quality of your words to and about your friends? Are they full of God’s grace and mercy? Or are they laced with sarcasm or harshness? Do you speak well of your friends or do you gossip and criticize? Continue reading

“Would you raise your hand?” August 1

 

Would you raise your hand? - What if God gave you a dangerous assignment? Would you be willing to go? Would you raise your hand and say, "I will go and if I perish, I perish"? Our passage in Proverbs warns us about the slavery of debt and Paul, in our New Testament reading, hits us with the issue of sin and then shows us God's cure. What if God gave you a dangerous assignment? Would you be willing to go? Would you raise your hand and say, “I will go and if I perish, I perish”?

Also, our passage in Proverbs warns us about the slavery of debt and Paul, in our New Testament reading, hits us with the issue of sin and then shows us God’s cure.

 

Today’s Readings:
Esther 3 & 4
Psalm 89.46-52
Proverbs 22.7-8
Romans 3.1-31

 

Would You Raise Your Hand?

 

Esther 3 & 4:

If I Perish, I Perish

 

Paul warned the Galatians that those who belong to the enemy will persecute and mistreat God’s children.

“But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now” (Gal. 4.29).

The devil has always been out to destroy that which God loves. It’s true today and it was no different in Esther’s day. But the good news is that the sovereign Lord was, is and always will be in control of the ultimate outcome.

Because of God’s favor, Esther was now Ahasuerus’ Queen, but even as Queen, her right to come into the King’s presence was limited. But now her people were in great danger and her Cousin Mordecai sent her a message to let her know she needed to petition the King on their behalf. Such a bold move could cost her life.

But Mordecai’s words to Esther encouraged her to trust in God’s sovereignty, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (vs. 14) and she responded in faith, “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (vs. 16).

I, actually, think Mordecai’s question was more of a challenge than a question. Look at the rest of verse 14:

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

What about you and me? This is the time and place that God has chosen for us to live and bring Him glory (Acts 17.26). This is the family. This is the spouse. This is the nation. This is the time.

How would you respond if standing up for God or His people could cost your life? Most of us won’t be faced with the risk of, literally, losing our lives, but we are, at times, faced with the risk of losing favor or reputation or some other temporal benefit. How would we respond?

Jesus said:

23 …If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Lk. 9.23-26).

Are we willing to take a stand? Are we willing to be used by our sovereign God for this time in the kingdom? Could we say with Esther, “I will go and if I perish, I perish”? Would you raise your hand? Would I?

Continue reading