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Thursday 2.20.20

Reminders of Commitments               Galatians 5:13-25

When the ring came out of the box the jeweler’s tooling-marks were distinct. Glistening ridges adorned its edges. Today, those marks are barely visible, worn away during the passing years. The ring resonates with memory and reminds me of a certain day when promises were made.

During the wedding we spoke promissory words to one another. We wore fashionable clothes and those present knew—this is a special and precious day. Decades later the ring reminds me still, of that October celebration.

Unlike a ring of gold God’s reminders do not rub off with life’s abrasive years. God’s special Word, including Galatians 5:13-25, reminds me of my responsibility from the day I committed to follow Christ all the days of my life, and to keep myself wholly to Him.

God’s covenant to the Christian community encircles my heart. The covenant with God, precisely like the one established in my marriage, is precious and holy.

Scripture passages like Galatians 5:13-25 are appropriate reminders of the day when God’s covenant was personally offered and I experienced God’s redeeming presence.

Some of God’s words in this passage feel harsh; but to those in God’s covenant they are true reminders, they are like a marriage of total commitment, for faith in Christ. God’s Word teaches me: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I [Paul] warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Joyfully, words in this passage also call me to continue embracing the spiritual experiences of a wedding guest at the supper of the Lamb: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Today’s passage challenges as well as intensifies faith. As you read the words of our brother Paul please pay attention to the contrasting clarity of the serious call to a devout and holy life. The call to follow Christ includes behaviors to be avoided as well as wondrous spiritual outcomes for those who honor the wedding ring-like reminders in God’s written Word.

Life Application Questions

  1. Are there expectations in God’s covenant which you find more difficult to keep than others?
  2. Are passages like Galatians 5:13-25 helpful spiritual reminders of your commitment to Christ?

Wednesday 2.19.20

Eternal Pleasures                               Psalm 16:1-11; James 1:16-17

Psalm 16 ends with this intriguing thought: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

The God who made our five senses, endorphins, sugar, sunsets, baby smiles, warm breezes, sex, fire, basil, long summer evenings, fireflies, jalapeno peppers, puppies, poetry, color, light, textures, coffee beans, cow’s cream (which makes butter, whipped cream, cheese, and ice cream), ocean waves, mountain meadows, hands to hold, friends, hugs, waterfalls, pineapple, hands to hold, bodies that can play sports, laughter, music, thunder, voices to sing, gemstones, butterflies, hot sand, cold snow, tulips, family, the cocoa plant, companionship, water lilies, shade, horses, eyes, and love—this God has more up his sleeve. All the things we love best about this earth and this existence are only a shadow of the things to come. All the legitimate pleasures of this earth, as good as they are, do not satisfy. Instead, they give us a foretaste and fuel in us a longing for what God still has in store—eternal pleasures at his right hand.

But notice that then, as now, all the pleasures are sourced in God. He is giver of the good gifts, and He is greater than those gifts. The pleasures and delights He gives can only really be enjoyed as we first find our contentment in Him. We are “filled with joy” in God’s presence. For the one whose heart is satisfied in the Lord, the “eternal pleasures” are just icing on cake.

I think it was John Piper who coined the term “Christian hedonist.” A Christians hedonist is one who finds his joy and pleasure in God and His will. Far from being selfish or self-seeking, this kind of pursuit of pleasure actually glorifies God. As Piper writes: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Our eternal pleasures begin now, as we learn to delight in God, more and more.

Here’s the question: How do we pursue and develop delight in God?  

Tuesday 2.18.20

Would Adam Go Ice Fishing?              Genesis 2:19-25

Is ice fishing an indicator of a marriage in trouble? I have heard people say that a man must have a bad marriage because he is standing over a hole in the ice on a frigid day. I am guessing that comment came from a bias against prolonged exposure to the cold and not true knowledge of a fisherman’s marriage.

In Genesis 2:19-25, we get to pull back the curtain of time and peek in on the first wedding. If there was ever a marriage made in heaven, this was one. God brought the woman to Adam and he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’; for she was taken out of man,” Genesis 2:23. Would Adam leave this woman alone so he could take some “me” time and go ice fishing?

How do you think Adam would treat this gift from God?

Adam quickly realized, as he named the animals, that there was no helper suitable for him. Despite having a perfect relationship with his creator, he still longed to journey through life with someone similar to himself, a human. Aloneness has been present from the beginning of time.

What have you observed about how people respond to the fear of being alone?

How have you responded to times when you have been alone?

The ice fisherman seems to enjoy his “alone” time. Instead of ice fishing, God gave Adam his own aloneness fighter. God’s perfect plan for marriage is laid out in Genesis 2. Warren Wiersbe states “We live in a world created by God. We are creatures made in the image of God, and we enjoy multiplied blessings from the hand of God. How tragic that some people leave God out of their lives and become wanderers in an unfriendly world, when they could be children of God in their Father’s world.” God’s design for marriage practiced within the parameters that God has lovingly designed for His children is a formula for a joy filled life. Enjoy ice fishing if it brings you joy, but don’t be driven to seek the ice to solve your broken marriage. Instead choose to follow God’s manual for a successful marriage located in His Word.

What are some things that creep into marriage relationships that disrupt the Biblical mandate for marriage?

What steps can be taken to protect marriages?

Monday 2.17.20

God Is Good!                           Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-18

It was more than 80 years ago, but I still remember singing in children’s church:

Praise him, praise him,

All you little children

God is love

God is love.

I remember the mealtime prayer, too:

God is great; God is good.

And we thank him for our food.

By his hands we shall be fed.

Give us Lord our daily bread.

(I was always bothered that “good” and “food,” don’t really rhyme, but the sentiment is good.)

More popular in recent years is the song, “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.” And there’s the more personal chorus: “God is so good; he’s so good to me.”

What memories do you have from your childhood of early songs, prayers, or events that made you aware of God?

The truth that God is good goes way back—far beyond our lifetimes. The psalmist encourages the godly to “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (34:8). James reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (1:17). And Jesus himself reveals the real essence of “good”: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone (Luke 18:19).

Can you think of times when you felt almost overwhelmed at God’s goodness? Describe those times.

Of course, God existed before time, but when it comes to the events of this world, his goodness is clearly demonstrated in his creation. After the six days of his bringing this world into existence, we read “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

What in this created world makes you most aware of God’s goodness?

The climax of God’s ancient “work week” was the fashioning of Adam from the dust of the earth and breathing life into him. Man was created “in the image of God.” One notable difference is that Adam (and Eve) had a body, but God does not; he is a spirit. That human body came alive when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7), the first use of CPR.

Since Adam’s fall, our bodies have become subject to aging and physical failings. In spite of that, the Bible says that all things “work together for good” to us who are trusting him.

What difficult times have you experienced that tried your faith but ultimately demonstrated God’s goodness to you?

The Bible says a lot about the breath of God. As we’ve seen, it was the means of creating human life. Job affirms that truth; he said, “The Spirit of God has made me. And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

What other God-breathed creation has he given for our continuing benefit? (See 2 Timothy 3:16). How does it work for out good?

Here’s a life-long challenge: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1)

Friday  2.14.20

The World: Ending or Beginning?        Revelation 21:1-8

Actually. It did seem like the world was coming to an end.

filthy water—bloody, fishy, messy

slimy frogs—kitchens, bedrooms, beds

nasty gnats and flies—swarming, zooming, biting

deadly livestock—horses, camels, sheep

ugly boils—festering, oozing, nauseating

scary hailstorm—smashing, crushing, destroying

hungry locusts—consuming, devouring, gorging

gloomy darkness—blinding, obscuring, concealing

unlucky firstborn—weeping, wailing, sobbing . . .

~ the plagues of Egypt. Horrible.

 

Again. It did seem like the world was coming to an end.

hordes like desert wind advancing

warriors like wild animals attacking

spears thrusting, swords slashing

blood spurting, heads flying

fleeing at night, falling in flight

buildings collapsing; fires raging

city in ruins, sanctuary in shambles

ridicule of the nations . . .

~ the destruction of Jerusalem. Horrifying.

 

Aghast. It will seem like the world is coming to an end.

stars to earth falling; sky like a scroll rolling up

burning sulfur raining down; sun scorching

mountains, islands fleeing; quakes shuddering

hailstones, one hundred pounds a-piece, flattening

seas, rivers, springs, bleeding

scorpion-like locusts, big as horses, attacking

in darkness groping; from wasting diseases suffering

tongues in agony gnawing; crying out for rocks to be crushing . . .

~ God treading the winepress of the fury of his wrath. Horrific.

 

 

 

Now: Just when the caterpillar thought the world

    was coming to an end,

           it became a butterfly!

 

Creation beginning all over again:

new heaven and earth appearing

new Jerusalem rising

heavenly groom, his earthly bride embracing

in the presence of God dwelling

everything good inheriting

holy city shining

no more dying, mourning, weeping

Garden of Eden restoring

river of water of life flowing

faithful and true forever reigning . . .

~ Hallelujah! Even so come, Lord Jesus!

 

Life Application Questions

 

  1. Does it sometimes seem like our world is falling apart? Take hope: the anxiety of the present will come to an end sooner or later; then the future of awesome can begin. And that will last forever!
  2. For some, the old world is going to come crashing down. For others, the future world is going to open up. What determines who is in which group? See Revelation 22:14-15.
  3. Where will we spend eternity? In some far-off, distant heaven? Or on a beautifully restored earth—maybe an enhanced version of the original Garden of Eden?
  4. Is there a better example of the goodness and grace of God?

 

Thursday 02.13.20

Deep Questions       1 Peter 1:6-8; James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12:1-12

Joanna struggles with Scripture’s words as she cares for her mother who lives with gradually increasing signs of dementia.  Joanna cites the Apostle Peter, “…now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials….” (I Peter 1:6).  Shrugging shoulders suggest Joanna’s sadness conflicts with her faith. She speaks while looking at the floor. Her voice trembles, describing her pain in technical sounding words.

She said, “You know (deep sigh and pause), medical achievements adorn much of the world. Remedies for many afflictions have profoundly lessened the effects, if not completely eliminated them.  None of the advances, though they are numerous, appear to be helping my Mom.”

Today’s three passages from the Apostles James, Peter and the unknown writer of the New Testament letter we call Hebrews encourage deep questions. Joanna extends her faith with a willingness to ask such questions.

Joanna’s mother, now in her eighty-second year, has a form of dementia not uncommon in her age group. Short term memory loss is the most obvious indicator. Confusion accompanied by anger is an unwelcome guest. Joanna’s faith comes to this decision: trust.

A casual reading of Peter’s words at first alarmed Joanna. Perhaps you have already read the passage or another of today’s Scripture portions.

Joanna wonders if “…all kinds of trials…,” include her mother’s diminishing brain function. She saw the test result which graphically showed areas of the brain as inactive.

Fortunately, a careful friend reminded her that Peter’s words were written to disciples being persecuted for the Faith. They are not necessarily about her mother’s memory loss. Joanna asks her friend, “I see that, now that you’ve explained it; but what about the words in James 1?”

She quotes the troubling passage. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

Joanna speaks with underlying anger, “It’s the pure joy words which bother me. Am I supposed to be joyful for my mother because some days she can’t remember my name and that my Dad died five years ago?”

Her friend replied, “I don’t know everything. I do understand the part that says, your faith is being proven and is producing perseverance. Faith is not easy or uncomplicated. I believe it all focuses on trust. Trusting God means we’ve decided that ultimately Jesus is Who He said He is, and we trust Him.”

Her friend continued, “I don’t get all the teachings in these passages and some parts of the Bible are really hard to understand. So, to me I have to decide: who do I trust? To me that’s what faith has become.”

Life Application Questions

  1. Do you agree with Joanna’s friend that faith focuses on trust?

Are there specific ways you could support a person like Joanna who is suffering with grief?

Wednesday  02.12.20

In This World You Will Have Trouble

1 Peter 2:21-24; 1 Peter 3:17-18; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Why do nations groan under injustice? Why does a soul ache when discomfort and disasters plague their rational realities? Some attempt to explain away pain as simple illusion or condemn God as evil or uncaring; some claim that God has limits and others dismiss his very existence. Yet, the Biblically grounded Christian believes that “God is all good, all powerful, and all knowing; he hates evil and will ultimately judge evildoers, and remove evil and suffering after accomplishing a greater, eternal good.”[1]This remains true even amid great suffering and trial.

We cannot avoid suffering, it is an essential factor in the sanctification process of a believer. A life of comfort would not drive us towards our eternal dependence upon Christ. Author Randy Alcorn comments, “Suffering will come; we owe it to God, ourselves, and those around us to prepare for it.” I believe that much of ministry will consist of believers helping others to address the question of suffering and using it to point their doubts toward a merciful and forgiving God.

Scriptures also encourage us to consider the blessings which accompany those who persevere through suffering. Peter writes, “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pet 1:21). Jesus himself warned that “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Suffering is an invitation to experience deeper relationship with God as He continues to offer the gift of salvation to all the lost souls around us. Immediate release from temporary suffering for us, could result in immediate and eternal suffering for others. Perhaps suffering is a space for grace for many who have yet to experience God.

Life Application Questions

  1. In your own words, describe the role of suffering in your own life.
  2. What are a couple ways to remind yourself of the goodness of God as you experience trials this next week?
  3. Suffering is not an easy task for any believers this is why we need community. What are some ways that you could (or are) walking with others through life’s hurts?