Do you ever take silent pleasure when someone who has criticized or mistreated you falls or suffers a setback? Is that how we should react? Is there a problem with rejoicing when “what goes around comes around”? Today’s reading in Obadiah looks at those questions.
In our New Testament reading, yesterday’s opening of the first six seals in Revelation prophecy a time of famine, death, earthquakes, volcanoes, murder, chaos and disaster. It will be followed by a time of eerie calm and devastating fear as the God of heaven is seen on His throne and the world reels in terror over “what’s next?” But first, an angel prepares a great evangelistic force. Continue reading →
How much do you really want to know Jesus? How much we value knowing Him reveals a great deal about our hearts. The Apostle Paul who had all the Jewish credentials: education, a great family pedigree, and his own achievements, said he counted it all as garbage, literally “dung,” in comparison to knowing Him.
Several years ago I started listening to a worship song entitled All I Once Held Dear (Knowing Him). You may be familiar with it.
I believe when it comes to worship, it’s not about the style of music, but about the words. It’s the words that we are offering up to God in our worship. It’s the words that really matter.
I was greatly moved by the lyrics which come right out of today’s passage in Philippians.
But as I was singing and worshiping two lines toward the end grabbed my heart with a holy fear. The lines were, “Oh, to know the power of your risen life and to know You in Your sufferings.”
The thought occurred to me that this isn’t generic. I was saying to the Lord, “I want to know You in Your sufferings.” And that would most likely happen through suffering on my part.
We have all suffered in various ways. I have and I’m sure you have, but there was something that gave me pause about singing and saying I wanted to know Christ in that way. I had to ask myself, “How much do I really want to know Him?”
As I went to my Bible to read the entire passage, I thought about the Apostle who had all the Jewish credentials: education, a great family pedigree, and his own achievements, and how he said he counted it all as garbage, literally “dung,” in comparison to knowing Christ (Phil. 3.8). Not just knowing Him in His resurrection power, but in the fellowship of His sufferings.
Verse 10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
I don’t know about you, but I like the part about knowing Him in the “power of His resurrection,” but the “fellowship of His sufferings,” is another thing. But I’ve come to believe we can’t have one without the other.
There will be times when we will suffer simply because we live in a sin-cursed world. There will be times when we will suffer because of the sins of others. And there will be times when we suffer because we are His and His light is in us. And darkness doesn’t like the light.
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn. 3.19-20).
The Christian walk is not without tests and trials, but ultimately God takes care of His own. As the Prophet Jeremiah said:
“‘They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to deliver you’” (Jer. 1.19).
And in the process of that suffering, we come to know Him in increasingly greater ways as we learn to depend on Him and cling to His promises.
Here are the lyrics to the song:
All I once held dear, built my life upon All this world reveres, and wars to own All I once thought gain I have counted loss Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing You’re my all, you’re the best You’re my joy, my righteousness And I love you, Lord
Now my heart’s desire is to know you more To be found in you and known as yours To possess by faith what I could not earn All-surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh, to know the power of your risen life And to know You in Your sufferings To become like you in your death, my Lord So with you to live and never die
Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet.” He also wrote the book of Lamentations. Its name refers to a funeral dirge. Jeremiah grieved over the judgment of his people and the destruction of the once flourishing and beautiful city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The destruction was God’s judgment on a people who had repeatedly turned their backs on Him. But before doing so, God through Jeremiah called the people to repentance and warned of the judgment that would come if they did not repent. Continue reading →
God says He’ll complete the work He has begun in us, but we often suffer unnecessarily in the process. Like Nemo and Dorie in the movie Finding Nemo, we ignore God’s instructions and end up “swimming through schools of jellyfish.” Like the fishy pair, we survive, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain and heartache!
Philippians 1.6 is one of my favorite verses. It gives me great hope when it says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t it good to know that He is the one who will complete His work in us? And … He never gives up! But I wonder how often we make His work harder … on us!
Someone gave me a great illustration of this. I was explaining this passage and she told me it reminded her of the scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dorie were told not to go around or over the gap, but through it. When they get there, that just doesn’t seem right to them; so they decide to swim over it. They end up running into a huge school of jellyfish! They survive it, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain! How like our attempts to figure things out for ourselves, often ignoring what God says, and doing what seems right to us! (Prov. 14:12)
4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
This passage speaks of the greatness of our God and our universal need for salvation. Each of us is like an “unclean thing.” All our righteousness, all our good deeds, all our attempts at trying to save ourselves or earn God’s approval are like filthy rags. We are unclean by nature, sinners from the womb.
But God …
Do you realize that the Bible is all one big “but God”? But God who is rich in mercy, who knows what we are, chose to die in our place! Continue reading →
Fighting and disagreements within a family can be some of the most difficult to settle, but God places a high priority on unity and peace within our biological families and within the family of God. Sadly, very few have the strength of character to do what is required in the midst of family feuds, spiritual or biological.
Verse 19, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
If you have ever seen or been a part of a family feud, you know they can last for years, partly because of the intensity of the emotional ties. So we must seek to avoid unnecessary conflict within our families.
Family feuds are often over money, favoritism, or failure to take responsibilities seriously.
Favoritism can be real or imagined, but the sovereignty of God must always be kept in mind. If God has allowed some mistreatment or lack of favor, what character quality (Gal. 5.22-23) might He be developing in your life and how does God want you to respond?
When it comes to responsibility, whether it’s children taking responsibility for themselves or siblings taking responsibility to care for aging parents, we are accountable for ourselves regardless of what someone else does or doesn’t do. Remember God rewards those who do right with the right heart attitude.
And when it comes to money, Jesus makes it clear how Christians should respond:
7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! (1 Cor. 6).
When we feel we are being cheated (not repaid for a debt or not given what we are due), God says to forgive and let it go. How we respond when it comes to money reveals a lot about our attitude toward God. Matthew 6:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].
Verses 14-15 warn us to forgive those who wrong us:
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6).
For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16.26).
Of course, avoiding conflict must be balanced with other biblical truths. We cannot use obeying God in one area to excuse our sin in another. We can’t use peace with our parents, for instance, as an excuse for a lack of submission to our husbands. We can’t allow what our family will think or whether they will be offended, to excuse drunkenness, gossip or any other sin. Romans 12.2 tells us:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” And 12.18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
“If it is possible …” At times, even though we refrain from arguing, being self-righteous or unnecessarily contentious, there are those who do not want to be at peace with us, even in our own families. We are to be salt and light. Salt sometimes stings and light always exposes darkness. And sometimes that brings anger and rejection from others.
But while family feuds can be challenging and emotions can run high, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to reconcile those relationships. Jesus said in Matthew 5.23-24:
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
God puts a high priority on unity and reconciliation and we should do all we can to be at peace within our biological families and within the family of God.
Is doesn’t matter who is more in the right. “The one who knows goes!”
James 4.17, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
God puts a high priority on unity and reconciliation and we should do all we can to be at peace within our biological families and within the family of God.
“But you don’t know what they did to me!” No, maybe not, but Jesus does. Matthew 5: Continue reading →
There is no sin in our lives that is too big or for which God won’t forgive us. But knowing that God will forgive us, doesn’t mean that’s our “ace in the hole” or that we can sin without impunity, like children with our fingers crossed behind our backs. The person who thinks he or she can do whatever and ask for forgiveness later is in rebellion against God and God is looking at the heart.
One of the consequences of willful sin can be the removal of God’s restraining grace where He steps back and allows us to do what our sinful heart desires. Without that restraining grace, we find that the sin we thought we could control is now controlling us. As someone once said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”
2 Samuel 11 & 12
The Cost of Losing God’s Restraining Grace
2 Samuel 11 & 12:
David, Bathsheba & the Loss of Restraining Grace
Here in chapter 11 David sees a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop and lustfully sends for her, knowing that her husband, one of his faithful men, is away on the battlefield. When she becomes pregnant, he tries to hide his sin and when his scheme doesn’t work, he orders her husband into the most dangerous part of the battle.
This is a sad page in David’s life story, one that would define and change the rest of his life and his reign. Even though God forgave him when he repented, the consequences of it were great!
Neither is there any sin in our lives that is too big or for which God won’t forgive us. But knowing that God will forgive us, doesn’t mean that’s our “ace in the hole” or that we can sin without impunity, like children with our fingers crossed behind our backs. The person who thinks he or she can do whatever and ask for forgiveness later is in rebellion against God and God is looking at the heart. God will not even hear our prayers when we are in that kind of willful sin:
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66.18).
Romans 6.1-2, 15-16, 21, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? … What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? … Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.”
And Galatians 6.7-8 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Job said that no plan or purpose of God’s can be thwarted (Job. 42.2), but He often has to allow the consequences of our sin and self-effort to take effect before we’re ready to be used or to receive the blessing without messing it up. Jacob and Rebekah, it seems, had to learn this lesson the hard way.
All this should be both a warning and a great encouragement to us: a warning of the consequences of deception, controlling behavior, and selfishness and an encouragement that God can and will use us, in spite of our past mistakes, if we will repent and turn to Him.
Also read about the difference between “Righteous Anger & Sinful Anger,” “The Chastening of the Lord,” and the importance of “Defending the Faith in Love.”
Isaac was now 137 years old, blind, and facing his own mortality. Perhaps he was sick since both Jacob and Esau expected him to die soon (27.41). As the story continues we will see that he actually lives forty-three years longer. By the way, Jacob and Esau were not exactly kids either. They were 77 years old!
Isaac planned to give a final blessing to Esau, his favored son, in opposition to God’s declared will (Gen. 25.23). But first he asked him to bring him a meal of fresh game. Instead, Rebekah convinced Jacob, her favorite, to deceive his father into pronouncing the blessing over him.
When the scandal of Jacob’s deception was revealed, it says, “Isaac trembled exceedingly,” perhaps over what Jacob had done or perhaps at the realization that he had favored his rebellious son in spite of what God had revealed to Rebekah before the twins were born.
Esau was already living up to God’s prophecy. He had married two Hittite women, clearly in violation of Abraham’s guidelines (Gen. 24.3). Rebekah and Isaac must have understood all this because 26.35 says his wives were “a grief of mind” to his parents.
And don’t forget the selfish, “I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now” attitude that had already cost Esau his birthright as the elder son.
Though Jacob’s behavior was completely wrong (and the fact that his mother suggested it, was no excuse), God, in His sovereignty, used it to bring about His desired result—not because of their sinful behavior, but again, in spite of it.
And Rebekah! Wouldn’t you just love to have a mother who gives this kind of advice! Continue reading →