November 23: The Games We Play
2 Kings 11:1–12:21; Galatians 3:1–29; Proverbs 7:10–20
We live in the age of online résumés, with pages dedicated to us and our faces. We can broadcast our thoughts in seconds and republish ideas that make us look smart by association. And we do it all in an effort to earn recognition or acceptance. We want to be heard in the midst of the noise—to earn a spot in the spotlight. The works of the law that drove Judaism in the first century ad weren’t much different; they were pitched as a way to obtain God’s favor as well as the favor of others.
Paul responds to the ideals of his age: “Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as having been crucified? I want only to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal 3:1–2). Paul’s questions are rhetorical. We’re not saved by works, but by the graciousness of God. It is not through works that the Spirit dwells among us, but through God’s goodness shown in sending His Son to earth to die for humanity and then rise again.
We struggle to admit that we’re looking for recognition—both from God and others. We know we can’t earn our way into heaven, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. We still think that if we can be good enough, smart enough, or successful enough, God and others will accept us. It’s a game we play that is for naught—we cannot earn what God offers.
What are you fooling yourself into thinking is important?
John D. Barry
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856–1922
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
For the Christian, gratitude should be a life attitude.
“Count Your Blessings” was written by one of the prolific gospel song writers of the past century, a Methodist lay preacher named Johnson Oatman. In addition to his preaching and the writing of more than 5,000 hymn texts, Oatman was also a successful business man, engaged in a shipping business and in his later years as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey.
It is good for each of us periodically to take time to rediscover the simple but profound truths expressed by Mr. Oatman in the four stanzas of this hymn. In the first two verses he develops the thought that counting our blessings serves as an antidote for life’s discouragements and in turn makes for victorious Christian living. The third stanza of this hymn teaches us that counting our blessings can be a means of placing material possessions in proper perspective when compared to the eternal inheritance awaiting believers. Then as we review our individual blessings, we certainly would have to agree with Mr. Oatman’s fourth verse: The provision of God’s help and comfort to the end of our earthly pilgrimage is one of our choicest blessings.
Each of us could spare ourselves much despair and inner tension if we would only learn to apply the practical teaching of this hymn to our daily living.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings—name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings—ev’ry doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings—money cannot buy your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged. God is over all; count your many blessings—angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Chorus: Count your blessings—name them one by one; count your blessings—see what God hath done.
For Today: Psalm 28:7; 68:19; 69:30, 31; James 1:17
Make a list of God’s blessings. Share this list with your friends and family.
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Hosea 10 through 14. Our lesson is from Hosea 12:6, “Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.” (NASU)
The Lord’s faithfulness, kindness and mercy are inspiring. Let’s analyze four factors from our text.
First, the people of God are to return to the Lord. This is a constant theme spoken by the prophet to Israel. The prophet is a messenger from God. He/she speaks on behalf of the Lord. The message varies according to the prophet. Some prophetic utterances have to do with future events and others regarding the need for holiness and repentance. Hosea looks to convince the people to change their ways and return to the fold of the Lord.
Next, the people of God are to observe kindness. Repentance does not come alone. It needs to be accompanied with actions. Our text recommends kindness be one of the manifestations of repentance. Kindness is not used in the sense of being courteous. Other translations use love or mercy. The idea is for the people of God as a whole to show love and its different aspects to one another.
Third, the people of God are to observe justice. Justice in biblical terms is different from human standards. The measuring stick is God and His word. It has to do with relationship.
God is the only perfect judge. He cannot be bribed and sees the totality of the person or nation. He also sees beyond the natural to the intentions of the human heart. This is why only Jesus the sinless one could accomplish true justice because He bridged the gap between humanity and the Divine. Justice is right relationship with God and one another.
Last, the people of God are to wait on the Lord. This is probably one of the more difficult things to do. As human beings we are generally prone to want to do things in our manner. Waiting on the Lord requires a negation of one’s plan and a trust in knowing that God’s way is better. We may know this in our head but the practice of this is the challenge.
A biblical example is the prophet Jonah. The Lord had given him a specific mission. The task was to go to Nineveh to preach repentance. He tried his own plan first and failed. Finally through a God-appointed circumstance, he went to Nineveh and everyone repented. Oh how similar we are to the prophet.
In conclusion, the people of God are to return to the Lord. The people of God are to observe kindness. The people of God are to observe justice. And the people of God are to wait on the Lord.
Let’s learn and benefit from Scripture. May we apply it daily to our own particular context.
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Joel. Let’s not forget the words of the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Until tomorrow and may God bless you in abundance as you study the Word of God.
|From Jacob to Israel
“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped” (Heb. 11:21).
Jacob’s life typifies the spiritual pilgrimage from selfishness to submission.
Jacob’s life can be outlined in three phases: a stolen blessing, a conditional commitment, and a sincere supplication.
From the very beginning it was God’s intention to bless Jacob in a special way. But Jacob, whose name means “trickster,” “supplanter,” or “usurper,” tricked his father into blessing him instead of his older brother, Esau (Gen. 27:1–29). As a result, Jacob had to flee from Esau and spend fourteen years herding flocks for his Uncle Laban.
As Jacob traveled toward Laban’s house, God appeared to him in a dream (Gen. 28:10–22) and made him the recipient of the covenant promises first made to his grandfather, Abraham, and then to his father, Isaac.
Jacob’s response is revealing, for he “made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God’” (vv. 20–21, emphasis added). Jacob’s conditional vow said in effect, “God, if You’ll give me what I want, I’ll be Your man.”
Despite Jacob’s selfish motives, God did bless him, but He humbled him too. By the time he left Laban’s house, Jacob was ready to yield to God’s will unreservedly. Note his change of heart in Genesis 32:10: “I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which Thou hast shown to [me].”
Then the Lord appeared in the form of a man and wrestled with Jacob all night (v. 24). Jacob refused to let Him go until he received a blessing. That wasn’t a selfish request, but one that came from a heart devoted to being all God wanted him to be. That’s when the Lord changed Jacob’s name to “Israel,” which means “he fights or persists with God.”
Like Abraham and Isaac before him, Jacob never saw the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. Yet on his spiritual journey from Jacob to Israel, from selfishness to submission, he learned to trust God and to await His perfect timing.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for grace to consistently pursue God’s will and for patience to wait on His timing.
For Further Study: Read Jacob’s story in Genesis 27–35.
To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think … be glory.
paul wrote to the Ephesians, God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” In other words, you can’t begin to ask God for all that He desires to give you. You can’t imagine all that He has for you. I have a pretty good imagination and a pretty good boldness in asking things of God. What an awesome statement about God’s supply house to think that we can’t even imagine all that is contained in God’s riches and that we don’t have enough time on this earth to tap into all that God has made available to us!
Strength That Is Strong
Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7–10
Key verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Often when we face something much greater than our capability to understand or deal with, we become anxious as we wonder how God will intervene. In such a time the apostle Paul discovered a wonderful sense of security in trusting God. Paul prayed three times for the Lord to remove what he called a “thorn in the flesh.”
Paul then wrote, “Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:8–10 nasb).
Our human nature cries out in begging sobs for God to remove the suffering. Yet it is in times of trial that God endears Himself to us in ways that we would not typically experience. Pain, once it is brought into the throne room of God, commands His personal attention.
Paul’s unwavering faith brought a new sense of strength to his life, one that he had never experienced before that moment. Strength that knows it is strong is really weakness. But weakness that cries out to God for help is strength far beyond human understanding.
Lord, give me strength that is strong in You, unwavering faith that surpasses human understanding.
A Renewed Knowledge
Put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
We live in a fallen world, and as a result, our renewed minds need ongoing cleansing and refreshment. God’s chief agent of purifying our thinking is His Word (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26).
The New Testament calls us to the mental discipline of right thinking. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth.” First Peter 1:13 says, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon… the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And Paul often instructed his listeners to think right and not be ignorant.
The Old Testament also calls us to right thinking. King Solomon said, “Incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry for discernment, and lift up your voice for under–standing,… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:2–5).
Dwelling on the right things takes initiative and effort. But if you are faithful to make the maximum effort, God will give you understanding (cf. Ps. 119:34).
November 23 The Praise of His Glory
O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
Psalm 19:1–4 painted this picture:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (niv)
Our Maker designed all creation to be to the praise of His glory. The tiniest pebble and the tallest mountain bear testimony to God’s power and love. Warbling birds, chirping crickets, and croaking frogs lend their special voices to the chorus.
Have you ever been outdoors on a clear night in an open space, where there are no artificial lights to get in the way? You cannot count the thousands of stars in the sky. In that moment outside, your feelings of awe may well up so strongly inside that you are unable to speak.
Psalm 8:1 is a wonderful prayer: “O Lord, our Lord, / How majestic is Thy name in all the earth, / Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!” (nasb).
O Lord, my Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens.
Working Together for Good
Scripture reading: Hebrews 11:23–29
Key verse: Hebrews 6:19
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “Suffering either makes fiends of us or it makes saints of us; it depends entirely on our relationship towards God.”
Most Christians deny having anger toward God when trouble comes. But their irritation shows when they are quick to recall how He is in control of all things. A mere nod from Him is enough to stop any form of trial or persecution.
When heartache or disappointment comes, try dropping to your knees in humble prayer. Searching for a way out only magnifies the problem. God is your heavenly Counselor. You can go to Him anytime, and He will give you strength and a new perspective. You also can ask Him to show you why He allowed the hurt to touch your life. He had rather you come to Him than run from Him, as Adam did in the Garden of Eden.
In some cases it is wise to talk your feelings out with someone who understands what you are experiencing. In most cases this is healthy. However, make sure the person you talk with is someone who loves the Lord and wants His best for your life. Confidentiality is a sign of true trust. End your conversation in prayer, asking God to take your hurt and frustration and bring something good out of them.
Romans 8:28 is much more than a time-worn cliché. If we allow Him the opportunity, God will work everything together for our good and His glory.
Dear Lord, please take my hurt and frustration and bring something good out of them. Give me a new perspective on my circumstances and renewed strength to face the challenges ahead.
Whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. I dwell in the secret place of the Most High and shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Your truth shall be my shield and buckler.
My life is hidden with Christ in You, Lord God. He who touches me touches the apple of Your eye. I stand still, and see Your salvation. You, Lord, will fight for me, and I shall hold my peace. You, God, are my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore I will not fear.
Jesus comforted His disciples, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” The resurrected Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that You are able to keep what I have committed to You.
Thank You for the safety and security You provide, Lord God.
Proverbs 1:33; Psalm 90:1; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 91:4; Colossians 3:3; Zechariah 2:8; Exodus 14:13–14; Psalm 46:1–2; Matthew 14:27; Luke 24:38–39; 2 Timothy 1:12
MOST of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart. Disappointments and heart-breaks will do this when billow after billow rolls over us, and we are like a broken shell hurled to and fro by the surf. Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not without an all-sufficient solace; our God is the harbor of weather-beaten sails, the hospice of forlorn pilgrims. Higher than we are is he, his mercy higher than our sins, his love higher than our thoughts. A rock he is since he changes not, and a high rock, because the tempests which overwhelm us roll far beneath at his feet. O Lord, our God, by thy Holy Spirit, teach us the way of faith, lead us into thy rest.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous;
Praise is becoming to the upright. (Psalm 33:1)
Walking in the way of Your laws,
O Lord, I wait for You;
Your name and Your memory are the desire of my soul. (Isaiah 26:8)
Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.
Woe to me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5)
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness.
If I have found grace in Your sight, teach me Your ways, so I may know You and continue to find favor with You. (Exodus 33:13)
May I consecrate myself and be holy, because You are the Lord my God. May I keep Your statutes and practice them, for You are the Lord who sanctifies me. (Leviticus 20:7–8)
Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.
May I examine all things, hold fast to the good, and abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21–22)
Faithfulness as a Steward
My activities for this day
O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of Your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to You. (1 Chronicles 29:18)
Current events and concerns
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:20, 24)
If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3)
Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)
Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
Concerning the lost, Jesus said, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he finds it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes into his house, he calls his friends and neighbors together and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:4–7, 10)
Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He answers him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
But I will remember the name of the Lord my God. (Psalm 20:6–7)
Love the Lord, all you His saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud doer.
Be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:23–24)
Morning, November 23
“Fellowship with him.”
— 1 John 1:6
When we were united by faith to Christ, we were brought into such complete fellowship with him, that we were made one with him, and his interests and ours became mutual and identical. We have fellowship with Christ in his love. What he loves we love. He loves the saints—so do we. He loves sinners—so do we. He loves the poor perishing race of man, and pants to see earth’s deserts transformed into the garden of the Lord—so do we. We have fellowship with him in his desires. He desires the glory of God—we also labour for the same. He desires that the saints may be with him where he is—we desire to be with him there too. He desires to drive out sin—behold we fight under his banner. He desires that his Father’s name may be loved and adored by all his creatures—we pray daily, “Let thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven.” We have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. We are not nailed to the cross, nor do we die a cruel death, but when he is reproached, we are reproached; and a very sweet thing it is to be blamed for his sake, to be despised for following the Master, to have the world against us. The disciple should not be above his Lord. In our measure we commune with him in his labours, ministering to men by the word of truth and by deeds of love. Our meat and our drink, like his, is to do the will of him who hath sent us and to finish his work. We have also fellowship with Christ in his joys. We are happy in his happiness, we rejoice in his exaltation. Have you ever tasted that joy, believer? There is no purer or more thrilling delight to be known this side heaven than that of having Christ’s joy fulfilled in us, that our joy may be full. His glory awaits us to complete our fellowship, for his Church shall sit with him upon his throne, as his well-beloved bride and queen.
Evening, November 23
“Get thee up into the high mountain.”
— Isaiah 40:9
Each believer should be thirsting for God, for the living God, and longing to climb the hill of the Lord, and see him face to face. We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. My soul thirsteth to drink deep of the cup which is reserved for those who reach the mountain’s brow, and bathe their brows in heaven. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun; they eat dust like the serpent when they might taste the ambrosial meat of angels; they are content to wear the miner’s garb when they might put on king’s robes; tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ, thy soul’s Husband. Make him the source, the centre, and the circumference of all thy soul’s range of delight. What enchants thee into such folly as to remain in a pit when thou mayst sit on a throne? Live not in the lowlands of bondage now that mountain liberty is conferred upon thee. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments, but press forward to things more sublime and heavenly. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God!
“When wilt thou come unto me, Lord?
Oh come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still,
I’m blest when thou art near.”
The Spirit of Truth
Scripture Reading: John 16:7–15
Key Verse: John 14:26
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
The disciples were worried. Jesus was talking more and more about the time when He would leave them. Who would tell them what to do and how to act? Who would answer the tough questions?
Jesus put their fears to rest: “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you … But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:7, 13 nasb).
Jesus was not leaving them to muddle about in confusion and uncertainty; on the contrary, He promised them revelation and understanding of His truth beyond their current experience.
The Holy Spirit is actually the One who takes the words of the printed page of God’s Word and reveals the meaning to your heart and mind. He uses many human “tools” as aids in the process, including pastors, teachers, and your personal traits. But without the Spirit, the words would remain just that—words.
If you’ve ever avoided a difficult passage because you feel you won’t understand it, don’t turn away. God promises to enlighten your heart (1 Cor. 2:14). You are the intended recipient of every meaningful word.
O Lord, how I thank You that You did not leave me to muddle about in confusion and uncertainty. You promised revelation and understanding beyond my abilities. I receive it!
Scripture Reading: 1 John 2:7–11
Key Verse: 1 John 2:9
He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.
Of the five senses, sight may be the most appreciated. Our eyes enable us to see the beauty of God’s creation and allow us to navigate through it. Imagine for a moment that your sight is suddenly limited. As disturbing as physical blindness would be, the Bible warns us of a more formidable disease called spiritual blindness—an ailment that limits our ability to distinguish dark (evil) from light (that which is of God).
Even those of us who have a personal relationship with Christ are not immune to this condition. If we are not living each day with Christ as the central focus of our lives, we can become desensitized to the lures of the world. Satan enjoys nothing more than to distract a believer away from the truth.
In the second chapter of 1 John, we are provided with an example of how we could unknowingly experience spiritual blindness—hating our brother even though we claim to be in the light (verse 9). Essentially, if we call ourselves Christians and then treat others badly, speak out in anger, or harbor resentment toward others, we are actually living in darkness. Our actions are not only displeasing to God, they are damaging to those around us.
D. L. Moody once said, “Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.” Pray today that God will show you any “blind spots” in your walk.
Heavenly Father, show me any blind spots in my relationship with You. Don’t let me be distracted from the truth of Your Word.
Train Up a Child
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Each child needs to know that he is unique and not like any other child God ever created. The Hebrew phrase “in the way” describes the habit or character of an individual at his own age level. The emphasis is on the importance of adjusting our training according to the ability of the child at each stage of his development. Each child has his own way, and by paying attention, we can determine what that way is.
The root meaning for the term “train up” is “palate or roof of the mouth.” The Arab midwife would take olive oil or crushed dates on her finger and rub the palate of a newborn baby to create in the infant a desire to suck. A real meaning of “training” is to create a taste or desire. Our task is to develop in our children a hunger or desire for spiritual things, to cultivate an urge to follow God.
|With All Your Heart
I had quite an “opening” this morning in meeting on the text “The Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” I was thinking of you and of Logan and Alys, and of the intense pleasure I take in you when you are happy and good. I thought of how I enjoy your letters where you tell of your happiness, and of how sometimes the tears of joy fairly will come when some point or proof of your goodness comes to my attention.
And I seemed to have an insight into the heart of God towards us, and of the pleasure He takes in us when we are happy and good. If you did not tell us of your happiness we could not take half as much pleasure in it, and the God, in whose image we are made must like also to have us tell Him how happy we are. Of course He knows it, but He likes to hear it, just as we like to hear our loved ones say the things which we already know are in their hearts. Then I went on with the verse “He will beautify the meek with Salvation,” and I thought of how I love to see you look nice and to dress you beautifully, and then realized how God was just the same towards us and enjoys making us beautiful with spiritual graces.
Keep claiming your promise whenever it comes into your mind, and soon, darling, all other love will fade into insignificance compared to the depth and reality of thy love for God. It has with me. No one is of any account beside Him! But perhaps it is the disappointments of life that have helped to bring me here; and you will need to know more of these. And yet he is able to make all grace, and consequently this grace, abound towards you, even without any disappointments. At any rate your position in regard to it is right, to trust Him to enable you to obey His command “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” It will come somehow I am sure.
—To Daughter Mary, September 24, 1882
Distraction of antipathy
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Psalm 123:3.
The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper. “Therefore take heed to thy spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God. There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.
Beware of “the cares of this world,” because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul. It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.
Another thing that distracts us is the lust of vindication. St. Augustine prayed—‘O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.’ That temper of mind destroys the soul’s faith in God. ‘I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.’ Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves.
When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it
1 Thess. 5:24
Earthly faithfulness is possible only by the reception of heavenly gifts. As surely as every leaf that grows is mainly water that the plant has got from the clouds, and carbon that it has got out of the atmosphere, so surely will all our good be mainly drawn from Heaven and Heaven’s gifts. As certainly as every lump of coal that you put upon your fire contains in itself sunbeams that have been locked up for all these millenniums that have passed since it waved green in the forest, so certainly does every good deed embody in itself gifts from above. And no man is pure except by impartation; and every good thing and every perfect thing cometh from the Father of lights.
|Playing the Fool
“Behold, I have played the fool.”
1 Samuel 26:21
A Christian should not act like a fool.
In Deuteronomy 32:6 Moses looked out at the belligerent children of Israel who had failed God so many times and said, “Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people?” The children of Israel were playing the fool. Sadly, God’s people today continue to play the fool.
One way they do so is through disbelief. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to two disciples who didn’t believe that He had risen from the dead. Jesus said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). To disbelieve God and His Word is to play the fool.
Another way believers play the fool is through disobedience. In Galatians 3:1 the apostle Paul says, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” And in verse 3 he says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” They started out well but were disobedient and got caught up in the works of the law.
Still another way Christians play the fool is through desire for the wrong things. First Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires.” If you desire the wrong things, you play the fool.
Finally, you can play the fool through doing the wrong things. James 3:13–17 says that there are two kinds of wisdom. Godly wisdom produces “good behavior” (v. 13), but foolish wisdom produces “jealousy and selfish ambition” (v. 16). A self–centered person plays the fool.
It’s sad to see so many Christians playing the fool. It doesn’t make any sense. Why should Christians live as blind, ignorant, foolish people when they have the wisdom of God?
Paul says at the end of Romans, “I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil” (16:19). If you have to be a fool at all, be a fool (unknowing, unacquainted) about evil.
Suggestions for Prayer: Make Paul’s exhortation in Romans 16:19 your prayer.
For Further Study: Read Proverbs 2:1–22 as a reminder of what benefits you’ll receive from following true wisdom instead of playing the fool.
Reading for Today:
Ezekiel 37:3 can these bones live? The many dry bones (v. 2) picture the nation Israel (v. 11) as apparently dead in their dispersion and waiting for national resurrection. The people knew about the doctrine of individual resurrection; otherwise, this prophecy would have had no meaning (1 Kin. 17; 2 Kin. 4; 13:21; Is. 25:8; 26:19; Dan. 12:2; Hos. 13:14).
Ezekiel 37:4–6 Prophesy to these bones. Ezekiel is to proclaim God’s pledge to reassemble Israelites from the world and restore the nation of Israel to life (v. 5) and give them His Spirit (v. 14) in true salvation and spiritual life. Clearly, God is promising the resurrection of the nation of Israel and its spiritual regeneration (36:25–27).
James 4:4 friendship. Appearing only here in the New Testament, the Greek word describes love in the sense of a strong emotional attachment. Those with a deep and intimate longing for the things of the world give evidence that they are not redeemed (1 John 2:15–17). enmity with God. The necessary corollary to friendship with the world. The sobering truth that unbelievers are God’s enemies is taught throughout Scripture (Deut. 32:41–43; Pss. 21:8; 68:21; 72:9; 110:1, 2; Is. 42:13; Nah. 1:2, 8; Luke 19:27; Rom. 5:10; 8:5–7; 1 Cor. 15:25).
James 4:6 more grace. The only ray of hope in man’s spiritual darkness is the sovereign grace of God, which alone can rescue man from his propensity to lust for evil things. That God gives “more grace” shows that His grace is greater than the power of sin, the flesh, the world, and Satan (Rom. 5:20). The Old Testament quote (from Prov. 3:34; 1 Pet. 5:5) reveals who obtains God’s grace—the humble, not the proud enemies of God. The word “humble” does not define a special class of Christians, but encompasses all believers (Is. 57:15; 66:2; Matt. 18:3, 4).
DAY 23: What do the 10 commands that fill James 4:7–10 have to do with grace?
These verses contain a series of 10 commands that prepare a person to receive saving grace. These commands delineate a person’s response to God’s gracious offer of salvation and reveal what it means to be humble. Each command uses a Greek imperative to define the expected action:
1. Submit to God (v. 7)—James used the word to describe a willing, conscious submission to God’s authority as sovereign ruler of the universe.
2. Resist the devil (v. 7)—those who consciously “take [their] stand against” Satan and transfer their allegiance to God will find that Satan “will flee from” them; he is a defeated foe.
3. Draw near to God (v. 8)—pursue an intimate love relationship with God (Phil. 3:10).
4. Cleanse your hands (v. 8)—the added term “sinners” addresses the unbelievers’ need to recognize and confess their sin (5:20).
5. Purify your hearts (v. 8)—cleansing the hands symbolizes external behavior; this phrase refers to the inner thoughts, motives, and desires of the heart (Ps. 24:3, 4).
6. Lament (v.9)—to be afflicted, wretched, and miserable. This is the state of those truly broken over their sin (Matt. 5:4).
7. Mourn (v. 9)—the internal experience of brokenness over sin (Ps. 51:17; Matt. 5:4).
8. Weep (v. 9)—the outward manifestation of inner sorrow over sin (Mark 14:72).
9. Grieve without laughter or joy (v. 9)—the signs of denial; the flippant laughter of those foolishly indulging in worldly pleasures without regard to God, life, death, sin, judgment, or holiness.
10. Humble yourself (v. 10)—this final command sums up the preceding 9. The word “humble” comes from a word meaning “to make oneself low.” Those conscious of being in the presence of the majestic, infinitely holy God are humble (Is. 6:5).
From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.
November 23 – Grainfields and the Sabbath
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:1–2).
Keeping the Sabbath was still a binding ceremonial duty for the Jews of Jesus’ day, but most of them had little idea of God’s original purpose for the day. Instead of being a day of rest, it had become a day of burden with thousands of man-made restrictions. Ironically it became harder to “rest” than to work the other six days.
The Sabbath had ceased being a delight for people but had become oppressive and frustrating. They were undoubtedly tired of the unscriptural system imposed on the day and welcomed any proper teaching about the Sabbath.
It’s difficult to know what the Pharisees were doing in the fields this day, other than to be watchdogs over the human traditions of the Sabbath. Their accusation that Jesus’ disciples had broken the Sabbath law was simply wrong because it elevated human tradition to the level of God’s Word. Centuries of observing rabbinic ritual had given it the status of legitimate law in the legalistic minds of the Pharisees. They gave only lip service to Scripture and merely used it to justify their traditions, many of which “invalidated the word of God” (Matt. 15:6).
The Jewish leaders’ indictment of Jesus and His disciples on this occasion illustrates a desire to merely protect their distorted, man-made conventions. In that way it perverted God’s original purpose for the Sabbath, which was to give humanity a special day to rest and serve Him, not to deal with an exasperating list of regulations.
How do you deal with others’ expectations, even when you know they’re forcing unreasonable requirements on you? Do you fulfill them out of a need to be thought highly of? How does a person balance freedom with proper responsibility?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, http://www.moodypublishers.com.
Sun, November 23, 2014
However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling. Has not God by such words as these taken out of our hands the ultimate choice? “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing . . . All that the Father giveth me shall come to me . . . No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . . No man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father . . . Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. . . . It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.”
God has made us in His likeness, and one mark of that likeness is our free will. We hear God say, “Whosoever will, let him come.” We know by bitter experience the woe of an unsurrendered will and the blessedness or terror that may hang upon our human choice. But back of all this and preceding it is the sovereign right of God to call saints and determine human destinies. The master choice is His, the secondary choice is ours. Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
The master choice of salvation is His, the secondary choice is ours.
Conquer our wills, Holy Father, and help us to realize that our choice to accept You is but a reaction to Your initial call.
A. W. Tozer
PETITION: Pray for Faith
We must pray for faith.
Lord, let it be granted to us to believe; Philippians 1:29(ESV) for the faith by which we are saved is not our own doing, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8(ESV)
Lord, increase our faith, Luke 17:5(ESV) and supply what is lacking in it, 1 Thessalonians 3:10(ESV) that we may grow strong in faith, as we give glory to God. Romans 4:20(ESV)
Lord, give us so to be crucified with Christ, as that the life we now live in the flesh, we may live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us; Galatians 2:20(ESV) and so to carry in us continually the death of Jesus, as that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:10(ESV)
As we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, enable us so to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as we were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7(ESV)
Let every word of yours benefit us, being united by faith, Hebrews 4:2(ESV) by which we receive your testimony and set our seal to this: that God is true. John 3:33(ESV)
We beg you, work in us that faith which is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1(ESV) by which we may look above the things that are seen, that are transient, and may look at the things that are unseen, that are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18(ESV)
Enable us by faith to set the LORD always before us, Psalm 16:8(ESV) and to have our eyes ever towards him, Psalm 25:15(ESV) that we may act in everything, as seeing him who is invisible, and may look to the reward. Hebrews 11:26-27(ESV)
Let our hearts be cleansed by faith, Acts 15:9(ESV) and let it be our victory to overcome the world; 1 John 5:4(ESV) and let us be kept from fainting by believing that we shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13(ESV)
Matthew Henry’s Method for Prayer
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