Take the test: look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask yourself, “Which of these characteristics describe me and which don’t?” What do your answers tell you about your walk with God, your trust in Him, and your level of spiritual maturity?
In chapter 1 of James’ epistle, he compares the Word of God to a mirror (Jas. 1.23) and goes on to say that “if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” (Jas. 1.25).
Here in this passage, Paul commands us to “set our mind on things above, not on the things on the earth” (v. 2).
This chapter gives us a great summary of what a mature Christian life should look like—kind of a composite mirror image of Christlike character. Read back through Colossians 3 and take the test. Ask yourself what you are reflecting to the world. Continue reading →
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.”
Biblical hope is not the “wishing and hoping” kind of hope, as if something might happen. Although it has not yet happened yet, 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.
First 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.)
He also 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 these verses doesn’t end there.
Then he says, “whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” 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!
In verses 37-41 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their second missionary journey—so much so that they split up and go two separate ways.
God gifts us all differently and sometimes we will disagree on things even in areas of ministry. I imagine Paul as being very practical. John Mark had deserted them on the previous journey and he wanted someone he knew would be dependable.
Barnabas, on the other hand, was an encourager. In fact, Barnabas was not his actual name. His name was Joses, but he was such an encourager that the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4.36). God used their differences to further spread the gospel as two missionary teams went out with their different styles and callings.
All believers receive a spiritual gift or, perhaps, we might call it a gifting as it is often a blend of spiritual gifts in varying amounts (1 Pet. 4.10, 1 Cor. 12). We receive it at the time of our conversion. This spiritual gifting is unique to us and different from our natural talents, although they sometimes work together. Spiritual gifts are not given to make us look good or to use for our own spiritual gain, but for the benefit of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.7). Continue reading →
Verse 25.1, “Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals.”
The passage goes on to tell us there were 288 singers, plus musicians and support staff, 4,000 in all! What a music ministry that must have been! There were people singing and praising the Lord all the time!
And when I read the Psalms and other passages of Scripture, it appears to me there is lots of praise and lots of music in heaven. I believe God loves to receive our heartfelt praises often expressed through music and singing.
How do you view that time in the service where the truths of God are being proclaimed through music and song? Do you see it as just the prelude to the service, something to be enjoyed “if you make it on time”? Do you purposely arrive late to avoid it? Or do you see it as a time when you really focus on God and worship Him? Do you allow the words of the songs to penetrate your heart? Do you “think about” and “meditate on” the words you’re singing? Or have you allowed it to become “vain repetition“?
Let’s ask God to give us a “right spirit” where praise and worship are concerned. Continue reading →
If you did a heart check, how would you describe your heart attitude this past week? In your relationships with others? How about before Sunday worship? How have you approached God privately? Do you worship God in spirit and in truth? Do you obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart?
In Chapter 15 we find David once again preparing to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, but this time he does it in a way that is honoring to God. Whether he spent time reading the scrolls or talking to the priests, he had learned the importance of following God’s instructions for moving it.
Sometimes we, too, have a heart to do something for God, but we jump out there and do it without really seeking to understand if it’s the way He wants it done or if it’s even His will. Instead of prayerfully seeking Him, we go do our own thing and then ask God to bless our plan.
Everything the Israelites did in regard to the ark was part of their worship, recognizing that He is God and remembering to reverence Him.
In Spirit and Truth
When it comes to worship, we can be thankful that we have a new and better covenant as the book of Hebrews tells us. We are no longer under the ceremonial law with all of its restrictions and prohibitions (like “don’t touch the ark, unless you’re a Levite”). But the Old Testament laws were given so that we might better understand who God is.
In this case, that He is a holy God and should be honored as such. Continue reading →
Verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
This was difficult for those who followed Him to understand and many quit at this point. But Jesus was not concerned about making everything palatable.
We, too, are told to “count the cost” of discipleship.
Luke 14.27-28 says, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost …”
So what does it mean to “eat His flesh and drink His blood?” In verse 56 Jesus says the one who does “abides” in Him. John 15 also talks about “abiding in Him.”
John 15.9-11 says, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
We “eat His flesh and drink His blood” when we allow the “Word of God,” to become as much a part of our being as the food we eat. Food is digested and broken down in our bodies and literally becomes a part of us. So should the Word of God.
Is it truly a part of who you are or just some nice ideas that you consider if you feel like it or if it “seems right to you” as our Proverbs passage today says? The Word of God is not a buffet where we can pick and choose what seems palatable to us.
The same Bible that talks about God’s love and mercy also requires us to “count the cost of being a true follower.” That means we must give up some things which “seem right” like holding grudges, refusing to discipline our children biblically, seeking an unbiblical divorce, or dating an unbeliever.
Instead, we justify by saying, “You don’t know what she did to me!” Or, “If I spank my children, the psychologists say, it will make them hit others.” Or, “I know what the Bible says, but I believe God wants me happy!”
Your “happiness” is not God’s first concern, rather it’s your holiness! In fact, the “happiness” the world offers is like the yum-yums the White Witch offered Edmund in Narnia, only an illusion crafted by the deceiver himself.
True happiness is found by “abiding in Him,” in “keeping the commandments,” in “eating His flesh and drinking His blood,” so that His “joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
As today’s Proverbs reading says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16.25).
When we seek happiness in disobedience, the end is death, beginning with our intimacy with God. The next thing we know the yum-yums we desired have vanished only to be replaced by a craving for something that brings no satisfaction.
God had told David in 2 Samuel 2.11, “‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house …”
And so it begins.
David’s sins were adultery and murder. Now his son Ammon has raped his own half-sister and another son, Absalom, has murdered Ammon.
We think we can sin in secret and our sins don’t affect anyone but us, but we never sin in isolation. First, we set in motion the laws of sowing and reaping, and second, we are discipling our children and others by our lives and behavior. Children, in particular, are much more likely to do what we “do” than what we “say.” Continue reading →
Well, we have passed another milestone, another Old Testament book under our belts. Now we are on to 2 Samuel.
Proper respect for authority
In chapter 1 David mourns the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, especially Jonathan with whom David had a special covenant relationship. I believe it was Jonathan’s faith in God and sensitivity to what God was doing that led him to make a covenant with David.
We also see Jonathan’s loyalty to his father, although he didn’t allow that loyalty to cause him to sin. Instead, he kept his covenant to protect David. He warned David of the threat against him and spoke the truth to his father, telling him what he was doing was wrong. But in the end he refused to desert his father, even though it cost him his life.
What a beautiful picture of how we should respond to those God has placed in authority over us.
All of us are under authority. Wives are under their husbands’ authority. Children under their parents. Students are under the authority of teachers and administrators. Employees under their bosses and supervisors. We are all under the civil authorities: police men and women, judges, governors, all three branches of our federal government and others. Christians are under the authority of their pastors and elders. And we are all under God’s authority.
When an observer in Jesus’ time asked, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He warned that the gate is narrow. And when the people of Joshua’s day claimed that they would serve the Lord, he told them not to take that commitment lightly. Are there many today who have failed to heed those warnings? Are there many who are basing their relationship with God on something besides the true Gospel?
That should be heart-breaking for those of us who understand the Gospel, because it is the most incredible GOOD NEWS ever! Today’s post includes a link to a video that could shake your understanding of what the good news of the Gospel really is!
What a rich portion of Scripture! Joshua is coming to the end of his life and he wants to leave everything in order. He takes time to remind the people about all God has done for them and encourages them to remember how He has been faithful to His Word.
In 23.12-13 he warns them about intermarrying with unbelievers. This is still true today. If you are single and considering marriage or if you do in the future, remember, we are free to marry only in the Lord! (1 Cor. 7.39) – that is to another believer.
This week’s question: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Isaiah 6.8).
To answer this question we must begin with worship, the kind of worship Jesus talked about in John 4, worship that is in spirit and in truth.
The author points out that America has traditionally been known for three things, “our freedom of worship as well as our work ethic in the marketplace and our enjoyment of sports and entertainment.” But, he says, these three things have gotten out of balance. We too often, “play at our worship . . . worship our work . . . and work at our play.”
Like the times we live in, Isaiah 6 was written at a time of instability and uncertainty. King Uzziah had died. He had been a good king who had sought the Lord, brought prosperity to the people, and kept the nation strong. He had been the only king most of the them had ever known.
Life had been good. Perhaps they, like us, failed to have the kind of personal relationship with God they should have. Perhaps the same three things were out of balance in their lives. But now … the king was dead!
But instead of focusing on the circumstances around him, Isaiah was in the temple. Hawkins says:
(M)aybe you’ve realized this: rich worship experiences often come during times of chaos and crisis. Perhaps your Uzziah has died, and you find yourself without that one person or thing in whom you had placed your trust. Such was the context of Isaiah’s worship experience.
As a result, Isaiah saw the Lord “sitting on a throne, high and lifted up” (v. 1). Their earthly king was dead, but God was still on His throne!
The author goes on:
Isaiah’s worship experience is left for all posterity in order that we might truly know if we have worshipped God in spirit and in truth. We see from his experience that genuine worship will always result in upward evidence, inward evidence, and outward evidence of our encounter with the Lord.
The upward evidence was that he saw God in His holiness, high and lifted up. He said, “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (v. 3).
But when we have truly seen God in His holiness, we see ourselves in our sinfulness, the inward evidence. Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips … for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (v. 5).
That leads us to the outward evidence. Once we have seen ourselves as we really are, our gratefulness for His mercy leads us to see others and their great need for Christ. Now Isaiah was ready for God’s question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Isaiah’s answer should be ours, as well, “Here I am. Send me!” (v. 8).
Next week’s question: “Who among you fears the Lord?” (Isaiah 50.10).
Last week’s question:“Who can find a virtuous wife?” (Proverbs 31.10). Read it here.
You can get a copy of The Jesus Code and follow along with these 52 vital questions. The chapters are short and can easily be read in one sitting. If you do, I’d love your feedback. Click here to get the book or here for Kindle.
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Take the test: look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask yourself which of these lists describes you? What does it tell you about your walk with God, your trust in Him, and your level of spiritual maturity?
I love the imagery in the Bible. As you read, think about what some of these images portray and ask, “How does this apply to my life? How does it apply to our nation? How should I pray? What does God want me to see and possibly repent of in my life? How can I be a doer of the principles contained here?”
Verse 9.3, “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies …”
We don’t use a bow and arrow today, but we have all seen one. We understand how the bow is loaded with the arrow and then it is pulled back and fired at the target. God through the prophet is saying that their tongues were bent back and poised to fire lies.
This is a picture of someone whose life is characterized by lies and deceit. Just like the bow is known for shooting arrows (its only purpose), so these people were known for a life of deceit. Jeremiah goes on to say,
“They weary themselves to commit iniquity” (9.5).
I can’t help but think about some of what we call “politics” today.
The emptiness of living for ourselves
Because the people had forsaken the worship of the true God and because they had decided to live according to “the dictates of their own hearts” (9.13), God said He would “feed them … with wormwood and give them water of gall to drink.”
Life would not go well with them. Life would be bitter. They thought they would find satisfaction in living life their own way, but it was bitter and empty instead.
They thought they were so wise. Perhaps like our society today, they thought the religion of their fathers was for the weak, the unenlightened. They preferred some form of “spirituality” that suited them. Verses 23 & 24 say: Continue reading →