Thursday, February 26, 2015

King Forever

READ Psalm 9-10

David shows that he is just like us in Ps 10:1: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Just like you and me he, when times are really bad he wonders if God is truly there. He wonders if God has forgotten him and is no longer concerned for his troubles. You and I are prone to those same feelings are we not? When we are hurting badly we wonder if God really cares what’s happening.

But there is a lesson here from David also. Notice, even though he has some doubts, even though he questions, he still cries out to God in the midst of his distress. He still believes that God will ultimately hear and save him. He still keeps faith that God is in control and will finally come to his aid. Though his head wonders if God is absent, his heart holds fast to the truth of God’s steadfast care and love.

“The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” (10:16-17)

Prayer: Father, you are the eternal Creator who also shows everlasting love to your children. Help us to remember that promise from your Word. Help us to hold fast to that truth even in the midst of dark valleys and the seeming triumph of evil. You are “king forever and ever.” Help us to believe it and act like it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Do You Hate ISIS?

READ Psalm 7-8

Do you hate ISIS? Is your mind filled with the desire that they will get what they deserve? What about those who are your adversaries, who do evil things against you? Do you desire to see them punished? Or is there in you a realization that there is another way out for them?

David spends the first few verses of Psalm 7 talking about his enemies/oppressors who are seeking to kill him. He does want their evil to come to an end (9) and understands that God is his ultimate protector (10) who does bring righteous judgment (11) and even causes the evil oppressors to be caught in their own traps (14-16) .

But then he mentions another way for “the evil of the wicked [to] come to an end.” There is the possibility of their repentance (12). These wicked ones could turn from their sin and turn to God and receive his forgiveness and cleansing. God is a God who forgives sinners, no matter how bad (see Paul, thief on the cross, John Newton and me).

Wouldn’t that be far better for ISIS and your personal enemies also? Not only would it be better for our enemies, it would be better for us if, in our own hearts, we desired their repentance more than we wanted to see them punished. But, you say, it’s so difficult to think that way. You’re right, but we have the mind of Christ and he will enable us to be that kind of person if we trust him (Philippians 4:13).

Prayer: Father, you tell me to love my enemies. Let’s just be honest. Lord, that’s so hard it is beyond my personal ability to do it. So please, Lord, give me the grace that I need to love those who hate me and hate you. Please help me to desire to see even the worst sinners repent and know your grace and love.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You're my son, act like it!

READ Psalm 5-6

In 5:8 David prays a prayer that is a theme throughout Scripture, “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness.” In the 23rd Psalms David spoke of the Lord, his Shepherd, who “leads me in paths of righteousness for his name 's sake.” And in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” i.e., lead us in righteousness.

This is the true desire of every heart that knows God, to live a life that glorifies and pleases him; to walk a straight path before the Lord (8b) not turning to the right or left away from God’s intended leading. David’s heart was clearly hungry for this kind of righteous living.

We must remember that we have been made righteous by the work of Christ on the cross. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) We do not seek to live a life of righteousness so that we can become righteous. No, rather we live righteously because we are righteous in Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:9)

Simple illustration: when my dad said, “You’re my son, act like it,” he wasn’t exhorting me to do something to make myself his son. No, he was reminding me to live out who I really was. So the cry of our hearts today for God to lead us in his righteousness is from a deep desire to demonstrate who we truly are in Christ.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the righteousness we have in Jesus our Savior and Lord. Thank you that you took us in our unrighteousness and transformed us by your grace to true righteousness. Help us…lead us…cause us to live out that righteousness daily.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Growth Through Suffering

READ Job 41-42

 At the end of God’s declaration of his might and power to him Job utters one of the most profound statements that any many has ever said, “I had hard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:5-6).

It occurred to me how often this scenario is true. For the person of faith one of the surprising blessings in the midst of the crucible of suffering is how much we grow in our personal relationship with God. We seem to be able to learn so much more about God’s sovereignty and grace in very difficult times than in times that are pain free.

I’m so thankful this is true. And I’m so thankful that God is the one who gets to pick when those times come and not me. If the option were left to me I would opt for no suffering. But God, in his grace, loves me enough as he did the apostle Paul to let me have those thorns in my flesh to show me his grace is sufficient for even my deepest pain. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Prayer: Father, your grace is sufficient for every sorrow and trouble. Your power is perfected in my weakness. Help me to firmly know ahead of time that suffering will show me more of you. Help me to humbly seek you when the difficult times come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Stop & Consider

READ Job 37-38

Elihu challenges Job to “stop and consider the wondrous works of God.” (37:14) He has listed some of these wondrous works and we would do well to be reminded of God’s awesome power in all of creation. God is in control of all things which is evidenced by his omnipotence over thunder (37:2), lightning (3-4), snow (6), mankind (7), beasts (8) winds (9), ice (10), clouds (11-12). Brothers, stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

Then God speaks out of the whirlwind (38) and reiterates his sovereign power over all things, some of which Elihu has mentioned: creating the foundations of the earth (4), its measurements (5), its cornerstone (6), the limits of the sea (8), clouds (9), the morning (12-15), light (19), snow and hail (22), rain (25-28), ice (29-30), constellations (31-33), clouds (34-38), animals (39), birds (41). And the list continues into Ch. 39. Brothers, stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

OK, guys, all creation declares the glory and power of God. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). Take a moment, in the midst of your busy day, and worship.

Prayer: Father, you are great and awesome in your might power and majesty. You alone are sovereign over all things. You alone are God. Help us to worship you and humble ourselves before you as we ought.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Your Heart Will Follow Your Eyes

READ Job 31-32

Men, let’s face it, we have a problem. We are tempted to look at things we should not look at. It’s a major problem. And now we are learning that women have “evolved” and sunk to our level also. I read recently that one out of every three viewers of porn on the web is a woman. And the new series of books and just released film called “50 Shades of Grey” are strong evidence of the problem of pornography among women. So I guess we aren’t surprised to see that men in Job’s day had to face the same problem.

He begins his final defense in Ch. 31 with: ““I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job recognized his own need to be diligent and vigilant in avoiding the temptation of looking at things he should not. He knew there was a danger in this that far exceeded a look of the eyes that many would call harmless.

What was that danger? He tells us. “If my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes….” (1:7). There it is in full relief. The danger of sinful looking is that our hearts will follow our eyes. We will begin to want the thing that we are gazing on. Our focus will determine our desire. Before we know it, our own wife will not be satisfactory for us and we will seek other avenues that will lead us into deeper sin.

So where do we start? Job started with his eyes. He made a covenant with them. He refused to look. You can do that too, brothers. You can resist the temptation with God’s grace and power helping you (Phil 2:13). Now do it (Phil 4:13)!

Prayer: Father, help me and my brothers to make a covenant with our eyes. Help us to remember that we are bought with a price, the precious blood of our Savior, and that we have been made righteous in Him. Help us to live as those who are as righteous as the Lord Jesus.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Way We Were

READ Job 29-30

Was there ever a time when you sensed the presence of God and the blessing of God in a much stronger way than you do now? Job longs for those days throughout Ch. 29. He remembers the days of overt blessing from the Lord and days of God using him to be a blessing to others (12-16). If so, and if you feel that God has somehow abandoned you, there are two encouraging words for you today.

One, if you, like Job, have done nothing to bring this sense of a loss of fellowship with God into your life. Job was a victim of calamitous circumstances that were not of his own doing. God had allowed his suffering to show Satan what a righteous man Job was. If that is the case with you and you are suffering some unexpected tragedy or struggle in your life then take heart. For you can know, as we know from the book of Job, that God has not left you or moved away from you in any sense. He is still a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). He is there for you in your pain as much as he was in your time of strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Just call to him and trust that he is near…even when it doesn’t seem like it.

But there is a word for those in a situation unlike Job’s — a word for those who themselves have moved away from God because of their own sin. Are you longing for the days of joy when you walked closely with the Lord? Then know this. God’s door is always open to you. The pathway back to him has always been the same. It is the path of repentance. Come to the end of yourself and turn away from your sin and return to the Lord your God. Call upon Him and He will answer you. Cry out to Him and He will receive you with open forgiving arms. Don’t wait a minute more — run quickly to the Lord!

Prayer: Father, thank you that you never leave us nor forsake us. Thank you that you are steadfast and faithful even when we are not. Help us, Lord, to know that you are with us in the darkest night of the soul and giving us your grace. I pray for that one who may have turned from you into sin. I pray that you will hedge them in with your love and drive them back into your gracious arms. I pray that they will know the joy and cleansing of your forgiveness and restoration.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cross-bound to His Righteousness

READ Job 27-28

Job was a man of integrity and righteousness. God had commended him for these characteristics at the beginning of the book (2:3). He had steadfastly held on to them when almost everything in his life had been lost. Even his wife challenged him to abandon his integrity and curse God and die (2:9). But he would not. Now in the face of his three well-meaning but misguided friends, he still will not give in to their accusations and admit guilt when he knows there is none there. He holds fast to his integrity and righteousness (27:5-6).

Notice, how he continually phrases his argument. First, he knows that his own sin has not caused the calamity in his life. He is certain of that and steadfastly maintains it. How many of us, knowing our own hearts before God, would be able to do that today? Are we not less prone to integrity and righteousness than Job was? But therein lies the gospel. You and I are not dependent on our own righteousness. No, we are cross-bound to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We should be able to hold fast to His righteousness and Job did to his own.

Secondly, he continually maintains that, though he may not understand it, God is the one who has allowed this to happen to him. He never loses his certainty of the sovereignty of God over all things. At times, he seems to be giving a defense of God to his friends. Imagine how strong in one’s spirit a man must be to hold so unwaveringly to who God is in all His majesty and grace. Wouldn’t you like to be that kind of man?

Prayer: Father, thank you that my salvation is not dependent on my righteousness for I, unlike Job, am far from a righteous man in and of myself. But I stand faultless before your throne dressed in the righteousness of Christ alone all because of His work for me at the cross. Glory to your name!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Little White Lies

READ Job 17-18

As Job continues his reply to Eliphaz, he makes an interesting statement in 17:5, “He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property—the eyes of his children will fail.” The Hebrew original of this verse is open to differing translations and, therefore, the exact meaning is a bit in doubt. But from the wording of the ESV it seems to suggest the danger of breaking the 9th commandment, “You shall not bear false witness,” especially for gain, with the added warning that this will have consequences for one’s children.

Think about the sin of lying. It’s one sin that so many don’t think of as that big of a deal. We even tend to categorize our sins into sizes (little white lies). So often we rationalize telling an untruth with the idea that it won’t hurt anyone and it might help me. How often have you been tempted to put something untrue on your tax return? That would be a lie. I even know of a pastor who lied on a loan application form so he could get out of one house and buy another larger one for less money. He broke the 9th commandment. If this sin is really no big deal, how did it make God’s “top ten?”

But think of the damage to the children. As they watch their parents practice the regular art of lying what does it teach them? Is there any wonder that they will then lie to their parents and to others? And one day, when their lie is large and they are called to accountability, who will even think to blame the parents at all?

Christian, be a person of truth. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be a person of your word.

Prayer: Father, deliver us from the temptation to speak untruth, especially when we think it will be beneficial to us. Help us to be willing to suffer harm rather than lie before you. Give us the strength and courage to be people of honor in your site and for your name’s sake.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Surrendered to God's Sovereignty

READ Job 13-14

Job got it. Got what? He understood that God is sovereign. He is the only true God. He is absolutely, perfectly holy and righteous and sovereign over his creation. He alone is God. And whatever he does is good and perfect whether we understand it or not.

Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (13:15). Job recognizes that God’s potential decision to kill him was perfectly within God’s prerogative as God, but even in that instance Job still would worship him. He would still find his hope in the only One who is hope for us. Whatever God’s perfect plan and purpose is, we must not sit in judgment on him and expect that he conform to our notion of what is right or good or just or fair. No, we must humbly submit our wills to his will and still find our hope in him.

I’ve heard people say, when discussing a particular point or notion of some doctrine with which they disagree, “Well, if that’s true, I couldn’t worship a God like that.” Can you see the sinful arrogance of that statement? We are created beings. We don’t get to sit in judgment on our Creator. We don’t get to decide what God has to be like and then check to see if he measures up to that standard. We must worship him as he has revealed himself to us.

Job never lost that understanding even in the midst of horrible life circumstances that none of us will ever come close to experiencing. But ours will be bad enough at times to tempt us to turn from our simple, child-like faith and trust and hope in God. Let Job be a model of how to handle adversity.

Prayer: Father, my difficulties are so small compared to Job. Yet, when I am in the middle of the pain, they seem almost unbearable at times. Help me, like Job, to still hope in you and, like Job, to still bring my hard questions to you, the only possible source of the right answers. Help me to surrender all myself and my life to you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Grace Glimpses

READ Job 11-12

Now we hear from Zophar for the first time. As with his two friends, Zophar, actually says some things that are true. Yes, they are true but they just don’t fit this particular situation and don’t give Job the wise counsel and deep comfort that he needs. Nevertheless, sometimes one can find truth in the midst of misapplication.

Zophar says of Job, “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” (11:6b) What a grand statement about the grace of God and another glimpse of the gospel in Job. Have you ever heard someone say, when asked how they are doing, “Better than I deserve.” I have said it myself at times. It is so true. What do we deserve? We deserve to be put to death (Romans 6:23) for all of eternity because of our sinfulness. We deserve the full and complete wrath of God.

But therein lies the gospel. We do not get eternal death because Jesus got it for us. We do not bear the wrath of God because Jesus bore it for us at the cross. So we get less than we deserve. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

Prayer: Father, your grace is so abundant. It far exceeds the depth of our sin. Where sin is much, your grace is much more. Thank you, Lord, for grace that pardons our iniquities and grants us peace with you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Gospel Glimpses

READ Job 9-10

When we read the OT with NT perspective it is easy for us to see glimpses of the gospel in even unexpected places. One is here in Ch. 9 of Job. Picture the scene. Job’s friends have come to offer counsel and encouragement. But what they are actually doing is accusing Job of deep sin.

Job responds this time to Bildad’s call for him to repent by saying, “how can a man be in the right before God?” (9:2) Great question. How can a sinful human being be right before God. Answer: he can’t, if left to himself. As Job knows, “if one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.” (9:3) Then later Job expresses the real need of sinful humans, “[Would that there were] arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” (9:33 see ESV footnote). That’s what Job needs an arbiter, a mediator between him and God.

Oh, glorious gospel! That’s it. That’s the good news in Jesus Christ. He is our mediator. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6a) He bore our sins in his own body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) in order to make us right before God (9:2). The Lord Jesus came and took away God’s contention against us (10:2). That’s what Job wanted. That’s what Job needed. And that is what each of us needs.

Prayer: Thank you for giving your Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life. Thank you for providing the mediator that we needed because we could not make ourselves right before you. Thank you, that in Jesus Christ we are acceptable before you and we no longer contend against you and you no longer contend against us. Glory hallelujah! Amen!