Even when we disagree, it is vitally important that we seek to understand and seek to be kind.
How are you doing? Are you worried about, or frightened of, COVID-19? Are you frustrated at having been locked down for a long period of time? Are you out of work? Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one? How are you doing?
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Proverbs 12:25 NASB
I know people in each of the situations I asked about. Some are more anxious and worried than others. Some are frustrated while others are downright angry. There is much disagreement over how we as individuals and as a society should conduct ourselves in this COVID-19 era. All too often, these differing positions yield resentment and division among smart people; even people with family ties or otherwise strong friendships. And this does none of us any good.
This succinct little proverb reminds us that, when others are experiencing difficulty, kindness is king. Even when we disagree, it is vitally important that we seek to understand and seek to be kind.
Let each of us pledge to take this into our day – today and every day.
“Have you ever wondered what a society might look like if it abandoned God? Sadly, I don’t think we have to look far.”
Have you ever wondered what a society might look like if it abandoned God? The book of Judges is one of the toughest reads in the Bible. It describes a society in chaos; a society in which everybody did what they wanted to do with no fear of meaningful consequence or repercussion. Every time I read Judges I ask myself, “could my country descend to this depth?”
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
Judges 17:6 and 21:25 NASB
Indeed, the days of Judges were very dark days in Israel’s history. Israel, of course, is God’s chosen nation. These are the people He rescued from bondage in Egypt and led to the Promised Land. These are the people with whom God entered into a special covenant. But what we see here, at least in part, is that God will allow people to reject Him. And when they do, they reap the consequences of their choice.
I am concerned about the current state of affairs in the United States and what this might mean for our nation’s future survival. We see before our very eyes the sinful nature emerging in our country. The greatest example of this is the legalized killing of innocent children inside their mother’s wombs, with many political leaders celebrating as they gleefully sign bills expanding this “right” through laws supporting late-term abortion. I know many Christians who staunchly stand for the right to kill these children; yes, Christians. Indeed, the wolf in sheep’s clothing is alive and active in this great nation. This is just one of many examples of his deceptions. And the chief aim of the enemy is to separate people from God.
Our nation is becoming increasingly divided in many aspects of life: rich versus poor, race versus race, liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, mask versus no mask, reopen versus quarantine… There are a plethora of examples of the division that is rife within our society. The rhetoric tossed from one side to the other is increasingly volatile and hateful. Don’t believe me? Listen to how our leaders in government attack one another, seeking to belittle their political opponents like a bunch of seventh graders fighting over a kickball. Listen to the so-called “discussion panels” featured on many cable news channels as they talk over one another as they attempt to prevent one from making his point. Even the moderators interrupt when they do not agree with what a panelist is saying. Consider the flow of comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as people launch personal attacks against the person who posted her comment. Rather than listen, many simply shout louder in an attempt to drown out the voices of those with whom they disagree.
Truth be told, a nation divided within itself cannot stand.
I believe that the root of this growing division is in our country’s collective rejection of God. Oh, to be sure, many people claim to believe in God, but the god that many claim for themselves is not the God of the Bible. Many who regularly attend church claim to believe in God, but many who regularly attend church do not believe in the God of the Bible. And when the church fails to preach and teach the full truth of God’s Word, this societal reimagining of God infiltrates the very Church He established. Indeed, in this era of relative truth, where man is free to reimagine god as each sees fit, deception slowly replaces Truth and the society descends into chaos. As I look at my country, I see a country placing its collective faith in the wrong place. I see a country headed for deep trouble.
Have you ever wondered what a society might look like if it abandoned God? Sadly, I don’t think we have to look far.
The good news is that it is not too late to turn back to God. Redemption and forgiveness is available through God’s Son, Jesus. I pray every morning for our nation and her people. I pray that we would turn back to God as a nation. I pray that we would rise above the fray of division and strife, choosing to listen rather than drown out. I pray that those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior would be salt and light to our nation and our world. And I pray that my voice would not feed the fires of division and enmity, but instead fan the flames of faith and unity built on the foundation of God’s Word.
One of my favorite songs is called “Prayer”. Released by Christian rock band Petra in 1990, here are the lyrics to the bridge followed by the chorus:
As we face the last and final hours Turn a wayward country back to You And keep us from the evil that devours Keep us on the path and lead us through Keep us in Your light until Your kingdom comes And our work is done.
This is my prayer Lifted to You Knowing You care so much more than I do This is my prayer In Jesus’ name Your will be done I humbly pray. This is my prayer.
This is my prayer, too.
One of the reasons I started this ministry is to build a platform from which to be salt and light to this increasingly lost and fallen nation; yes, to shine the Light of the Gospel so eyes might be opened and many might come to faith in Jesus. I pray that God will use this ministry to achieve His good and perfect purpose according to His good and perfect will.
Who is the greatest teacher you have ever encountered? Think about that for a moment. It could be anybody – a teacher in elementary, junior high, or high school. Perhaps it is a college professor or a mentor at work. Maybe the first person that comes to mind is a pastor or Sunday School teacher. I can think of people in each of those categories that have had a profound impact on my life, and I am grateful to each of them.
“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
Luke 24:27 NASB
This account recorded for us in Luke tells about an incredible teaching encounter. On the afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walked, they were discussing the events of the weekend. A man sidles up alongside them and begins to walk with them. Luke tells us that the man is Jesus Himself, and that the men were kept from recognizing Him. Jesus asks what they are talking about. Somewhat incredulously, they asked, in essence, “from under which rock have you just crawled?” They were surprised that the man seemed completely unaware of the events that had transpired – the conviction and execution of an innocent man, “a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people…” (Luke 24:19). Jesus, still not recognized by the two disciples opened up the Scriptures to them as He connected the dots between the Old Testament scriptures – all that they had at that time – and the events of the recent days. It was later that evening, as the man broke bread and offered it to them that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus – alive and sitting with them!
“They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us as He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'”
Luke 24:32 NASB
Can you imagine what was going through these disciples’ minds once they realized what had just happened? After what had been for them a weekend filled with sadness and confusion, Jesus Himself opened their eyes to the fullness of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus Himself taught them from the Scriptures all that God had revealed through His Word about what was going to happen. Jesus showed these men how everything God revealed and promised in the Old Testament had just been fulfilled through Jesus Himself! Jesus opened these mens’ eyes and changed their sadness and confusion into joy and thanksgiving. Luke tells us that Jesus vanished from their sight when they recognized Him and that they immediately walked back to Jerusalem to share what had happened with the rest of the disciples. Indeed, this was news worth sharing!
Did you know that the entire Bible – every word, every verse, every chapter and every book – is about Jesus? Have you ever read the Bible – all of it? Many Christians today believe that the Old Testament no longer has relevance. Indeed, many Christian churches today rarely, if ever, read, teach and preach from the Old Testament. And that is a shame. Having read the Bible in its entirety twice and being part way through my third time through a one-year Bible reading plan, I can tell you with complete certainty that there are dots to be connected. There are times when I read the Old Testament and my heart burns within me as I begin to see and understand the connections between Old and New Testaments. Prophecies written and prophecies fulfilled. Promises made and promises kept. Assurances offered and assurances given. Salvation foretold and salvation granted. All of this through Jesus Christ.
I hope this has peaked your interest in digging further into God’s Word. My One-Year Bible Reading plan was arranged by Pastor Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton in London and it is available on the You Version Bible App. Of course, your local Christian book store also offers a plethora of Bible reading plans from which to choose. What are you waiting for? Dig into the treasure of God’s Word. I promise, you will be blessed.
“I am encouraged that God chooses to work through imperfect, sinful people. He chose to work through David. My hope and prayer is that God will choose to work through me, too.”
“What were you thinking??”
Have you ever asked that question of yourself or someone else? You know, when you say or do something that, in hindsight, you realize was totally wrong or stupid or harmful… I can think of many times in my life when I sit in the quiet of the morning, thinking about something I said or did the day before or even sometime way in my past, shaking my head and asking my self, “What were you thinking??”
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassionblot out my transgressions.”
Psalm 51:1 NASB
The story of King David and Bathsheba (see 2 Samuel 11) is one of the Old Testament accounts that intrigues me the most. In summary, King David looks out the window of his palace and sees the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. Although Bathsheba is married, David summons her to the palace and has sex with her. Bathsheba becomes pregnant as a result, so to cover up what he had done, David sends for her husband, Uriah, from battle and suggests that he take a break and lay with his wife. Uriah refuses to do so, citing his loyalty to his fellow soldiers whom he had left behind in battle. So, David sends Uriah back into battle with a note the commander that Uriah be placed front-and-center on the battle line and, of course Uriah is killed – just as David had planned. After Uriah’s death, David takes Bathsheba as his wife.
“What were you thinking??”
The Bible tells us that God sent the prophet Nathaniel to confront David with this horrible sin (see 2 Samuel 12). He uses a parable to do so, and when David declares that the guilty man portrayed in the parable should die, Nathan announces, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David, upon realizing his guilt before God, offers the confession recorded for us in Psalm 51.
You may be asking, “Why is the account of David and Bathsheba one of your favorites?” Here are two points to consider:
David, even in spite of this horrible sin, is one of the great men of God. This story reminds me that God does great things through imperfect people; imperfect people like me and you. David, as a human, was unqualified to serve God, as am I. But God chooses to qualify the unqualified. He worked amazing things through David and, if He chooses, He can work amazing things through me and through you, too.
Do you think David knew the character of God? I do. Note the three adjectives that David cites as he asks God to forgive his sins. God is gracious (merciful, compassionate); God shows lovingkindness (tender and benevolent); God demonstrates compassion (sympathetic consciousness of another’s distress with a desire to alleviate it)(i). Remember, this is the Old Testament. This is before Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins. Aside from faith in the God he knew to be gracious, kind and compassionate, David had no grounds to ask for forgiveness. But he asked. And God forgave. Not only did He forgive, but He kept His promise to David as evidenced by the birth of Solomon by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24-25). And, as promised, David was in the lineage of Jesus, Himself (Matthew 1:6).
I find it both beautiful and comforting that God chooses to forgive us, even when we commit horrible, wicked sins. That He chooses to show mercy and grace when we fail and when we confess our failures. He did so in Old Testament times and He does so now, in these New Testament times, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Indeed, Jesus seals the deal. Through faith in Him we are assured that we will spend eternity with Him in a place called Heaven.
I am encouraged that God chooses to work through imperfect, sinful people. He chose to work through David. My hope and prayer is that God will choose to work through me, too. Of course, I’m no King David. But I do have a passion to share the Gospel. That is why I post here and on Instagram @workisministry. That is why I started the My Morning Walk channel on YouTube. I put the content out there and I trust God to use it to inspire, encourage, motivate and draw others to faith in Jesus, or to not use it according to His good and perfect will. I don’t have to know; I trust Him.
“In the grand scheme of things, my getting lost in London was not that big a deal. Getting lost in life, however, is a very big deal with potentially eternal consequences.”
On business in London, I decided to visit Buckingham Palace during a free afternoon. I took a taxi to the palace, and after exploring the area, I decided I would walk back to my downtown hotel. That is quite a distance, but I enjoy walking and I needed the exercise. Confident in my sense of direction, I headed off. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a residential neighborhood, and as I turned corner after corner trying to find my way out, I began to feel unsafe. I realized that my wandering was not leading me to my destination; in fact, it may have been leading me to a place I didn’t need to be. Fortunately, I had a city map in my pocket. It took me awhile to figure out where on the map I was, as the direction I had gone was the complete opposite of the direction I thought I had gone. Thanks to that map, I was able to navigate out of the neighborhood to a subway station and safely back to my hotel.
In the grand scheme of things, my getting lost in London was not that big a deal. Getting lost in life, however, is a very big deal with potentially eternal consequences.
Sin separates us from God. We read in the third chapter of Genesis about the very first sin, Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, and its consequence. Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. They were banished from the very presence of God. Indeed, sin separates people from God. And the Bible tells us that unrepented sin separates people from God forever. Without rescue, our eternity under sin is apart from God in a place called Hell.
In today’s modern society, there is a notion that “truth” is relative, that every person is free to define truth for himself or herself on whatever basis the individual believes to be most desirable. Many practices and lifestyles that are sinful in God’s eyes are encouraged and celebrated today – even in many Christian churches. This is not, however, unique to our modern times. The Apostle Paul wrote about this very phenomenon in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans (see Romans 1).
Today’s passage tells us that we all have gone astray. Although God has laid out a clear path for us to follow, we fail to do so. We either forget or ignore God’s Word or, worse yet, in some cases we decide for whatever reason that God’s Law somehow does not apply to us. Some say that times have changed and the rules of human behavior must change with the times. But that is not what God says.
When sheep go astray, they need a shepherd to find them and bring them home. When humans wander off of God’s path, we need a Shepherd to find us and bring us Home. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection.
Notice that today’s passage comes from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53 comes after Isaiah lays out the human condition in sin, apart from God. And, more than 700 years before Jesus was born, God tells us through this great prophet that He has a plan for our rescue. God’s plan of rescue through Jesus is foreshadowed and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Indeed, pastor Nickey Gumbel of HTB Church in London often reminds the readers of his daily devotional that the Old Testament must be read and understood from a New Testament perspective – The Old Testament, just like the New Testament, is all about Jesus. It is all about man’s sinful condition apart from God and God’s plan of rescue through His Son.
What does this mean for me today, April 22, 2020? Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:23-24 NASB
That sounds a lot like the prophet Isaiah, does it not? Although I stray from God’s paths often – many multiple times each day – I know that my eternity is secured through the blood of Jesus. And, with that knowledge, I don’t have to wallow in my sin. I don’t have to worry about sin’s eternal consequence because Jesus, the great Shepherd, found me and bore sin’s consequence in my behalf. And in yours. And, so, in the words of the great Nat King Cole, I can “pick myself up, take a deep breath, dust myself off, and start all over again…” That, my friends, is freedom in Christ.
Soli DEO Gloria!
Image credits: Me in front of Buckingham Palace: Selfie. Bible verse image credit YouVersion Bible App.
Yesterday morning I emailed my work team under the subject line, “WFH Week 5” and I stopped in my tracks. Week 5!? We are going into our fifth week of working from home?? Good grief, where has the time gone? It seems it was just yesterday that my wife and I were enjoying Ramon Ayala’s performance at Rodeo Houston (it was March 8), and now, all of a sudden, here we are. Week 5.
I enjoy reading on social media about the various ways people are spending their time as they do their part to flatten the curve. Seems that crafts, puzzles, games and conversation are making a comeback. And that’s good.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
Here is something else to consider as we shelter in place: how about starting a Bible reading plan? These are strange and stressful times. Many around the world are out of work or furloughed. The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise and the economic fallout will be felt for years. People are worried. People are scared. People are angry. Fact is, we are living through a most challenging time, with many long-term ramifications. Scripture offers abundant hope, comfort and reassurance as it conveys God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. I begin every day with my Bible reading plan. And when I miss it, I miss it.
The You Version Bible App offers a plethora of reading plans of various lengths and topics from which to choose. It is also the source of the Scripture images I share here. I am currently working through Pastor Nicky Gumbel’s Bible-In-One-Year reading plan for the second time. God truly does speak to us through His Word.
Indeed, taste and see that the Lord is good. I double-dog dare you.
What strange times we are living in. People are experiencing an array of emotions – fear, anxiety, worry, anger, angst…
I must confess that I worry more about the long-term impact Coronavirus will have on our society, our economy, and our world than I do about the possibility of my actually catching the virus myself. I worry about the hourly workers whose workplaces are closed, some indefinitely. Yes, I confess. I worry.
The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.
“Worry.” Ugh. Worry is evidence of misplaced trust, even of weak faith. It is also a tool the enemy uses to try and separate us from God. For me, when I worry, I want to “do something” to solve the problem, sometimes allowing that perceived need to rob me of my morning time in Scripture. See what I mean?
This morning I woke up early. Worried. So I got up, brewed a pot of coffee, and opened my Bible reading plan. And this is what I read – the traditional benediction offered at the conclusion of worship in so many churches. And I’m reminded that, as a Christian, I am in the world, but not of the world. Worry is displaced by faith, comfort and peace. Just as it should be.
“Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” Sometimes, important points are made through the asking of a rhetorical question.
The Bible in One Year reading plan begins in the book of Genesis. I always enjoy reading these accounts of God interacting with His people as He foreshadows His ultimate act of salvation through Jesus. Here, the context is God’s promise that Sarah, elderly and beyond normal childbearing years, will have a son from whom God will build a vast nation (Israel). What Sarah doesn’t know is that, from this lineage will come Jesus, Son of God and Savior of mankind!
I am also greatly encouraged in seeing how God does magnificent work through imperfect people; sinners like me.
Is anything too difficult for the Lord? Of course not! Amen!
During a recent visit to the ophthalmologist for my wife’s glaucoma, the doctor used a large illustration of the eye to explain what was going on. As she explained the eye structure to us, I saw clear evidence of the Creator. There is no way the human eye evolved by chance, from nothing. No way.
I speak often about how God reveals Himself through Scripture. He also reveals Himself through His magnificent Creation. The Apostle John, in describing Jesus, says this in part, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:3 NASB)
Want to see Jesus today? Just look around you. Consider nature and the order of the universe. Consider our environment and how it is set up to support all kinds of life. Speaking of all kinds of life…wow, such variety! To dismiss the Architect of all of this is to dismiss our Lord Himself.
🎶 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth! 🎶
Busy, Busy, Busy! As I wrote in my last post, I sometimes find myself so embroiled in the busyness of life that I sacrifice my morning reading and prayer time in order to get to the office a bit earlier or tend to some long-neglected household chore. I recently went through a period of this that was complicated by international travel and major changes at work. We all experience this from time to time. How does the Christian keep proper focus when life seems to be spinning at a rate faster than we can control?
I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
This verse was part of my morning reading this past Thursday and I am so thankful for this reminder. Hiding God’s Word in my heart means that I can call on certain passages of Scripture when faced with critical life circumstances or decisions. It means that I carry with me an overall understanding of who God is and what He wants for His people, all based on reading studying my Bible. I can draw from these things when the enemy seeks to lure me in a different direction. No, I’m not some freakish “super Christian” or a religious fanatic. I’m simply a man who loves his God and wants to live my life in alignment with His Word.
How does one hide God’s Word in his heart? Well, a few things come to mind:
I know that I am most tuned in to God when I keep my morning appointment with Him. Getting up early, reading my Bible and praying keep me dialed in. Touching base with God each morning sets the foundation for my day, and when I allow myself to be robbed of this time, there is a distinct difference in my outlook, my attitude, and my productivity. I must cherish this time and not let anything stand in the way of my morning devotion.
Memorizing passages of Scripture is another way to hide God’s Word in your heart. We all know John 3:16, right? Just in case, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” What a comfort that is to me when life seems so harrowed that the day goes by in a blur. Or when I catch myself in a sin and the guilt monster starts to eat away at my conscience. Admittedly, I could do much better here, but there are a number of verses that I know by heart so I can call on them. Sometimes, God gives me a nudge with a passage of Scripture. I love that.
There is a podcast called Truth for Life that I like to listen to when I walk. Alistair Begg is an honorable man of God who is very gifted at preaching and teaching God’s Word. There are a number of other quality podcasts out there featuring teachers faithful to the intent and meaning of Scripture.
Find a church home and get involved! Weekly worship is a fundamental need. In addition to participation in worship, find a way to serve outside of worship. I know many who claim that church is not a necessary ingredient to being a Christian. While this is technically correct, I believe it is misguided. We are the church. We exist to worship God, study His Word, partake of the Sacraments, and support one another. I believe this to be critically important.
The second half of this verse is important also. Why do I seek to hide God’s Word in my heart? Having God’s Word in my heart helps keep me from sinning against Him. It helps me make decisions that align with His Word. Oh, make no mistake, I sin. I sin often. The Apostle Paul referred to himself as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and lamented often that he catches himself doing things (sinning) that are not pleasing to God (see Romans 7:15ff). I’m no Paul for sure, but I can sure relate to these passages. So hiding God’s Word in my heart does not make me perfect, but it often causes me to change direction or make a decision different from what I was originally considering. I want my life to please God. His Word, and His Word alone, is my moral compass.
Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) famously penned this prayer:
“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Book of Common Prayer
That, my dear friend, is what it means to hide God’s Word in your heart. May God richly bless you in the coming week and beyond.