08/02/M – One God, One Mediator

Jeremiah 30:1-24; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Psalms 86:8-17; Proverbs 20:16-18

NT: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time. For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭CSB)

I don’t believe that Timothy had to be convinced of this, but Paul said it anyway as a boost to his faith: There is one God. In the first century Roman world, that was not a popular idea. To the Romans, there were many Gods… even different Caesars were declared gods. Not only is there one God, there is only one way to the one God, and that is through His one Mediator, Christ Jesus. Thankfully, the one God loves His creation and desires for everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. For that reason, in a tremendous act of love and mercy, God sent his Son to save the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life to be the ransom for all, so that all who accept His ransom through faith can be reconciled to God and saved.

If God desires for everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth… and if God has done everything through His Son to make that possible, then it is of utmost importance that we as people of God and followers of Christ Jesus, do everything to introduce unsaved people to Jesus. Part of the everything that we are to do is pray. When Paul wrote, “First of all, I urge…” he was stating the primary importance of prayer in fighting the good fight of faith and introducing lost souls to Jesus. Paul urged that petitions be made for everyone. Petitioning involves asking and entreating God on the behalf of someone else. Paul urged that prayers be made for everyone. Praying involves worshipfully laying your life down before God – in this case on behalf of someone else. Paul said that intercessions should be made for everyone. Interceding involves a coming together, where you are actually bearing the burden of another before the Lord. Paul said that thanksgivings be made for everyone. Thanksgiving involves speaking words of gratitude about someone, which in some cases could be hard to do. When Paul said that we should pray for everyone, he wasn’t talking about cursory, “Lord, please bless John and Mary” prayers. He was talking about going to war for people’s souls in prayer. And when Paul said everyone – he wasn’t just talking about everyone you like. He was also talking about everyone you don’t like and all the people that are making life hard for you. I must admit, as I read this, I am convicted of not praying for everyone in that way.

An interesting result comes from earnestly and passionately praying for people – especially for those who position themselves as your enemies. Paul said praying for people like that is good and it pleases God, because in praying for people, we align our hearts with the heart of God who desires everyone to be saved. Paul also said that in praying for people, we position ourselves to lead a tranquil and quiet life that is full of godliness and dignity. In the midst of the rancor-filled years of 2020 and 2021, have Christians gained the reputation of leading tranquil, quiet, godly and dignified lives – or have they gained the reputation of the exact opposite? I’m sure that most Christians were praying over their own situations – but I wonder how much petitioning, praying, interceding and thanksgiving they were doing on behalf of the people who were on the opposite side of the political and social aisle? Remember… there is one God and one Mediator… and His desire is for everyone to be saved. Are our hearts as believers aligned with His?

Psalms: “Lord, there is no one like you among the gods, and there are no works like yours. All the nations you have made will come and bow down before you, Lord, and will honor your name. For you are great and perform wonders; you alone are God. Teach me your way, Lord, and I will live by your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear your name. I will praise you with all my heart, Lord my God, and will honor your name forever. For your faithful love for me is great, and you rescue my life from the depths of Sheol.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭86:8-13‬ ‭CSB)

This psalm is attributed to King David. Just as it was in first-century Rome, the idea of one God was an unpopular belief. Surrounding Israel were nations that believed in and worshipped many gods… but David was able to say, “Lord, there is no one like You. No other god can compare to You… and no other god can do the things that You do.” Because David knew that the Lord God was the one God, he wanted to live according to God’s word, will and ways. He didn’t want his heart to be even remotely attracted to any other god, so he asked God to give him and undivided heart and mind that would honor God and only God forever.

Praying the way that Paul encouraged Timothy to pray develops in us an undivided heart and mind that is willing to walk in the ways of the Lord and is able to reverence and honor His name (His character, His reputation, and His desires). Do we truly believe that there is one God… and that there is only one Mediator to reconcile us to Him by faith? If so, are we willing to fully align our heart with His heart, and make His primary things primary in our lives through faith-filled, earnest and passionate prayer?

Prayer: Lord, you are the one God and You are the one Mediator through whom I can be reconciled to God. Just as David prayed, teach me Your ways and give me an undivided heart to honor You and everything You stand for completely. Give me the same desire You have to see everyone come to a saving knowledge of You – and in giving me that desire, remind me to pray earnestly and passionately for every unsaved soul that I know. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

08/01/Su – Prophetic Plans and Promises

Jeremiah 29:1-31; 1 Timothy 1:12-20; Psalms 86:1-7; Proverbs 20:13-15

OT: “This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” For this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you, and don’t listen to the dreams you elicit from them, for they are prophesying falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them.” This is the Lord’s declaration. For this is what the Lord says: “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place. For I know the plans I have for you”  — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:4-13‬ ‭CSB)

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the most quoted passages of scripture in the Bible. It is an encouraging verse of scripture, and it was written to encourage the exiles in Babylon. However, that verse needs to be understood within the context of the full message that Jeremiah wrote, otherwise we risk missing its intended meaning and purpose.

There were false prophets among the Jewish exiles that were telling the people to not get settled, for God’s deliverance was coming soon. Within two years they would be back in the land of Judah and everything would be back to normal. Jeremiah wrote to the exiles to tell them that those prophecies were false. God was not going to deliver them within a couple of years. They were going to stay in exile for seventy years… an entire lifespan. Yes, God had promised to deliver them – but it wasn’t going to be soon. Jeremiah 29:11 was declared by God and written down for all to hear within that context. When God said, “I know the plans I have for you,” He was in essence saying this: “I’m pretty clear on what My plans are for you – and they aren’t what the false prophets are telling you. Do I have plans for you? Yes I do. Have I made promises to You? Yes I have. But the plans that I have are not your plans, and will not be rushed into prematurely fulfilling My promises. Listen to My words and do what I say, and you will flourish even in captivity –  and you will position yourselves to be a part of My plans and ready to receive the promise when it comes.”

God had good plans for His people – for out of His people would come the Messiah who would bring salvation to the entire world. God’s plan had always been to bless His people so that they could be a blessing to all the nations. However, to be a part of His plans, His people needed to honor and obey His word, will and ways. They needed to stop seeking their own will and ways, repent, and seek Him with all their heart. Being a part of God’s plan and entering into His promise of a good future is all contingent on seeking the Lord, submitting to the Lord and obeying His word, will and ways.

The truth of Jeremiah 29:11 is that God does have plans for His people and His plans are always for their good and for a bright and glorious future. That doesn’t mean that God is bound to honor our plans for our lives. God is also not bound to bless us if we are ignoring or rejecting His word, will and ways. Often times, God’s plans for our lives are extremely challenging to our flesh. Often times God’s plans for our lives do not look anything like our plans for our lives. God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s definition of success is much different that the word’s definition of success. To fully enter into God’s prophetic plans and fully experience the fulfillment of His prophetic promises, we need to lay aside our plans, submit to His timetable, and seek Him with all our hearts.

NT: “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry… This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”  — and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and have shipwrecked the faith.” (‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:12, 15-19‬ ‭CSB)

God had plans for Saul of Tarsus – but those plans ran completely contrary to Saul’s plans… so much so, that Saul vehemently and sometime violently opposed God’s plans… until Paul was arrested by the risen Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus. It was there on the road to Damascus, after a lifetime of kicking against the goads, that Saul submitted fully to God’s plans and received God’s saving mercy and grace through faith. It was then that Saul and Saul’s plans died, and Paul entered into God’s glorious plan for his life. Part of God’s plan for Paul was to use Paul as a living testimony that God is willing and able to show mercy and save the most vilest of sinners, as long as they repent of their sin and place their faith fully on Him. Because Paul sought God and God’s plans with all his heart, countless numbers of people across the millennia have experienced God’s mercy and have been blessed with salvation.

Timothy had been given powerful prophetic promises over his life – but those promises would not be fulfilled if Timothy did not stand strong and fight the good fight of faith. Life in Ephesus for a submitted believer in Christ was extremely challenging. Ephesus was a pagan city given over to the worship of the Roman goddess Diana, goddess of wild animals and fertility. The temptation to compromise with the culture was strong, and some believers in the church had even shipwrecked their faith by capitulating to the pressure and ignoring their conscience. Undoubtedly, Timothy was discouraged – so Paul encouraged him to remember the promises that were spoken over him and continue fighting for the good hope that lay before him by faith.

God has good plans for our lives, and He has made many prophetic promises over our lives. But those plans and promises don’t just happen regardless of how we live our lives. We have to actively align our lives to God’s plans and actively fight for the fulfillment of God’s promises by grace through faith… and we do that by keeping our eyes on Christ and passionately seeking the Lord with all our hearts.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You have good and glorious plans for my life. I thank you that I have hope of a rich and glorious future in You. I realize that Your plans are not necessarily my plans… but Your plans are so much better and so much more fulfilling and satisfying than mine. What I have found over the years, is that as I lay down my plans and submit to Yours, You richly bless me with everything that I need and abundantly fill my life so that I can bless others. I gladly lay aside my plans and my preferences for the rich and satisfying plans that You have for me, and I trust that as things become challenging – as I remain faithful to You, You will be faithful to me and give me grace that is sufficient for every challenging thing. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/31/S – Debunking False Teaching

Jeremiah 28:1-17; 1 Timothy 1:1-11; Psalms 85:8-13; Proverbs 20:12

NT: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope: To Timothy, my true son in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach false doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on. But we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent…” (‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭1:1-9a‬ ‭CSB)

The book of 1 Timothy was written after the events recorded in the book of Acts. The book of Acts ends with Paul finally making it to Rome, where he remained under house arrest for two years. After being released from his first Roman imprisonment, Paul visited  the church that he began in Ephesus. After he left Ephesus, he placed Timothy in charge of the church. The purpose of this letter was to encourage Timothy through the difficulties that he was facing in Ephesus and to instruct him in pastoral responsibilities and the qualifications and duties of church leadership. This epistle is classified as a pastoral epistle. It wasn’t written to a group of believers – it was written to encourage and instruct Timothy, who was pastoring a group of believers.

One of the difficulties that Timothy faced was the teaching of false doctrine. It appears that the false teachers were Jewish legalists that were trying to mix teachings on the law with the telling of fantastical, non-canonical myths and legends of people pulled from their genealogical records. There is nothing wrong with the law – but the law can only do what the law was designed to do. The law was established to convict sinners of sin and to bring them to the realization that they need a savior. The law cannot save. Only the gospel has the power of salvation. God’s plan of salvation operates by faith and is motivated by love. The goal of solid instruction and teaching is to see people respond to the gospel sincerely in faith and to be motivated by pure-hearted love.

Because the false teachers didn’t really understand the purpose of the law and didn’t really know what they were talking about, the teachings that they gave were empty and confusing. They knew how to throw a bunch of words together and sound like they were saying something profound – but their words were empty speculations and fruitless discussions. Paul, because he knew the word of God, and the God of the word, knew that their teachings were false. He knew what truth sounded like and he knew what to look for in a solid and life-giving teaching. There are plenty of preachers in our day that are really good about putting words together and sounding like they have profound things to  say – but actually do not know the word of God nor the God of the word. If we don’t understand the word, will and ways of God, then we risk being led astray by their empty speculations and fruitless discussions. But if we do know and understand the word, will and ways of the Lord, we will not be led astray by false teaching and will be able to recognize and receive good teaching when we hear it.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for the powerful and salvational truth in Your gospel – and that You actually grace me to understand Your gospel that I may walk in it and explain it to others. Help me, as I endeavor to teach, to not become guilty of stringing together words that in the end are empty speculations and fruitless discussions. Help my words to be founded completely on Your gospel and delivered with love, a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/30/F – There’s Work To Do

Jeremiah 27:1-22; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18; Psalms 85:1-7; Proverbs 20:11

NT: “Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves. But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t consider him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:6-15‬ ‭CSB)

To some, Paul’s command here may seem to be heavy-handed and harsh, but it was not intended in that way. In our culture, the word command can have a negative connotation… a word that feels very bossy and unloving. This command from Paul was not that at all. The Greek word for command had to do with a military order or directive that is transmitted from the commanding officer to the troops on the field. Paul was not claiming to be the commanding officer – he was transmitting orders from the Head of the Church… he was writing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus taught that if a brother or sister is confronted and corrected, yet does not pay attention and repent, that person is to be excluded from fellowship. So Paul’s command actually came from the authority of Christ.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul encouraged the believers to lead a quiet life, mind their own business, and work – so that they wouldn’t be dependent on anyone. Then in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, he exhorted the believers to warn those who were idle. That word idle means disorderly… a soldier who refuses to fall into rank and submit to the orders of the commanding officer. There were members of the Thessalonian church who refused to work and were living off the generosity of others. Paul warned those people, and the believers in Thessalonica warned those people. Those idle people did not heed the correction nor the warning, so the result of that, based on Jesus’ teaching, was a removal from fellowship until they humbled themselves and repented. In withholding fellowship, they were not to treat the idle people as enemies. The act of withholding fellowship was to be done out of love – that the offenders would become ashamed of their behavior, repent, and come back in line.

Some people believe that it was the idle busybodies that started the rumor that the Day of the Lord had already arrived – and they were using that as an excuse to not work. Whether that is true or not, the truth is that Christ has not returned yet. And until Christ returns, there is work to do. There will continue to be work to do – either until we die, or until Christ raptures us to meet Him upon His return. As Paul stated, as long as we are able-bodied, we are to work quietly and provide for our needs, and not become a burden to other people. Of course there are times and situations where that is not possible – but that is the exception. If we are able, we need to work. We need to work to provide, and we need to work towards fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. And the work that we do is all by grace through faith. As long as we follow the commands of our Commanding Officer and receive the grace that He gives us through faith, we will not grow weary in doing good – and in the end, we will hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant… Share in Your Master’s joy.”

Prayer: Lord, You are my Lord. I don’t live according to my preferences. I live according to Your word, Your will and Your ways. Are there times when I don’t want to comply with Your directions? Yes, there are. Are there times when I would rather do nothing than to engage in Your kingdom work? Yes, there are. But I thank You that when I repent from those preferences and choose to walk in Your ways, there is grace available to help in my weakness. My desire is to be a good and faithful servant, so I submit fully to You and Your work… until I die, or until You return and catch me up to be with You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/29/Th – Hearts Set on Pilgrimage

Jeremiah 26:1-24; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5; Psalms 84:5-12; Proverbs 20:8-10

Psalms: “Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings. They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion. Lord God of Armies, hear my prayer; listen, God of Jacob. Selah Consider our shield, God; look on the face of your anointed one. Better a day in your courts than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than live in the tents of wicked people. For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord grants favor and honor; he does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity. Happy is the person who trusts in you, Lord of Armies!” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:5-12‬ ‭CSB)

During the time of the writing of this psalm, Jewish men were required to make pilgrimage from wherever they lived to Jerusalem – to present themselves before the Lord and worship Him. I imagine, for some, the journey was an inconvenience and a nuisance – where they had to stop their labors and spend time and money to make the journey. For others, the journey was an honor and a joy, and they looked forward to every opportunity they had to experience the Lord’s presence. On this side of the cross, people of God no longer have to make pilgrimage to a place to worship God and experience His presence. When Christ was crucified, the veil in the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom, the temple of God was turned on end, and a new and living way to the very throne room of God was opened through faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord. If we no longer have to go to a place to worship, what does it now mean to have our hearts set on pilgrimage?

There is a “place” where Jesus taught us to go to have deep and intimate fellowship with the Father. “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)” In my church family, we refer to this place as the Secret Place. It is a place of solitude, or a place where no one or nothing can distract you. It is a daily place of meeting with God. In the Secret Place, we listen, study and meditate on the scriptures, pray, praise and journal the things that the Lord reveals. The Secret Place is where we go to receive strength for each day and bright hope for tomorrow.

For some, making the time and effort to spend time with the Lord each day is an inconvenience and a perceived waste of time. For others (myself included) the Secret Place is a pleasurable never-ending spring of life and fountain-head of every spiritual blessing. The Valley of Baca (Valley of Tears) mentioned in this psalm may be a literal place, but it serves as a metaphor for difficult and painful places in life. For those whose strength is in the Lord and set their hearts on spending undistracted time with Him, those places of difficulty and pain become springs of life and showers of blessing as they receive grace for the time of need from the throne of God. They don’t burn out and fade away, but go from strength to strength as they submit their lives in faith to the Lord. If the psalmist claimed that a day in God’s courts was better than a thousand elsewhere, just think of how wonderful and refreshing a lifetime spent abiding with Christ and fellowshipping daily with God in the Secret Place will be. Happy is the person who trusts in God and sets his heart on pilgrimage.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that through You I can boldly come before the throne of grace for help in the time of need – but I don’t have to limit my time with You to only times of need. I can come before You, worship You at Your feet, and receive any and everything I need from You at any time. You are my source of strength. You are my place of trust – so I set my heart on fellowshipping with You daily in the Secret Place. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/28/W – Stand Firm and Hold On

Jeremiah 25:1-38; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; Psalms 84:1-4; Proverbs 20:7

NT: “But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:13-17‬ ‭CSB)

After addressing the untruths that were being spread about the second coming of the Lord, Paul reminded the Thessalonian believers that the reason they were chosen in Christ, saved and sanctified was because they believed the truth. So Paul encouraged them to believe the truth, stand firm in guarding the truth, and practice the truth in work and word. The full gospel that Paul brought them was the truth – all of it, including the sure hope of a certain future in Christ.

God led Paul to bring the truth of the Gospel to Macedonia – and God chose the Thessalonian believers for salvation and sanctification when they believed and responded to the truth of the gospel… all that the believers in Thessalonica would be able to obtain the glory of Christ. Therefore, it was pertinent that the Thessalonian church stand firm and hold on to the traditions they were taught. We can sometime view the word ‘tradition’ in a negative light. We may view traditions as old and stale things that are from the past that are no longer relevant to today. Here, the word tradition merely means something that was transmitted from one person to another by word of mouth or writing. Paul wanted them to stand firm (persevere in) and hold (powerfully possess and not let go of) the truths that he passed on to them verbally while he was there, and through his letters while he was away. Part of standing firm and holding the truth is actually practicing the truth. Faith become alive when we actually act on what we believe. Paul said that as the believers practiced the truth in word and deed, God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ would grace them, encourage them, and strengthen them in their faithfulness to believe, guard and practice the truth. The gospel is full of powerful, salvational and transformational truth – but the truth only has power when we believe it… and to continue believing it, we must stand firm in it, hold on to it and practice it.

Psalms: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Armies. I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young — near your altars, Lord of Armies, my King and my God. How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually. Selah” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:1-4‬ ‭CSB)

This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah. The sons of Korah were a sect of Levites descended from Korah, who was a cousin of Moses that rebelled against his position of authority (Numbers 16). The role of the Korahites was to serve in the temple. Apparently, the Korahite that wrote this psalm was prevented, for some reason or another, from being able to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem and serve in the temple. From the time of Moses until the resurrection of Christ, Jews had to go to a place to worship God… either to the tabernacle or the temple. The tabernacle, and then later the temple, was the place where the Name of God abided – and that was the only place where true worship could occur. So, for this son of Korah, being kept from the temple was being kept from enjoying the presence of God and worshipping Him.

Thankfully for us on this side of the cross, one of the truths of the gospel is that true worship is no longer about a place. It is about a person. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well in Sicar that the time was coming when it didn’t matter where worship occurred – what mattered was that the worship was done in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24). In Christ, we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit – and if we believe the truth of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, rivers of living water will never cease to bubble up from within us and flow out to a dry and thirsty world. In Christ, we never have to go through a season of being withheld from the presence of God, for in Christ, the presence of God is in us and with us always. As we stand firm, hold to and practice that truth, Christ Himself will be with us – even to the end of the age.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for the surety that comes from knowing that You are truth and that everything that comes from You is truth. I can prevent myself from becoming confused or led astray by believing You, standing firm in You, holding on to You and walking in all that You call me to do. Be ever with me as I remain in You by faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/27/T – False Prophecy

Jeremiah 23:21-24:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Psalms 83:9-18; Proverbs 20:4-6

OT: “I did not send out these prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. If they had really stood in my council, they would have enabled my people to hear my words and would have turned them from their evil ways and their evil deeds… I have heard what the prophets who prophesy a lie in my name have said: ‘I had a dream! I had a dream! ’ How long will this continue in the minds of the prophets prophesying lies, prophets of the deceit of their own minds? Through their dreams that they tell one another, they plan to cause my people to forget my name as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship… Now when these people or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord? ’ you will respond to them, ‘What is the burden? I will throw you away! This is the Lord’s declaration.’” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭23:21-22, 25-27, 33‬ ‭CSB)

In Jeremiah’s day, “prophetic words” from God were a dime a dozen. If you wanted a confirming word from the Lord that you were going to be OK, you could find a “prophet” that would give it to you. It probably wasn’t too dissimilar from the flurry of competing “prophetic words” that we have experienced – especially in the United States – over the past few years. Judah had been invaded by Babylon and Jerusalem was under siege. The people wanted to be assured that everything was going to work out… that Babylon would be defeated, Jerusalem would not be taken captive, and life could continue on without any disruptions to their pursuit of pleasure. Not wanting to run away from an opportunity to promote their “ministry,” the self-proclaimed prophets of the day were happy to give the people the words they wanted to hear. The only problem was, that was not what the Lord was saying to His people. He was saying quite the opposite.

Jeremiah was the lone voice actually bringing the message of the Lord to the people – and it wasn’t a message that he wanted to deliver. It was a message that he grew weary of delivering – and even tried to stop delivering – but it burned inside him to the point that he couldn’t hold it back any longer. The true word from God was a burden to carry and a burden to deliver, and it was not well received – especially with all the other “prophets” saying the exact opposite. It got to the point where the false prophets and priests actually began to belittle Jeremiah and make fun of the “burden” he was carrying. The prophets, priests and people would facetiously ask Jeremiah, “What is the burden of the Lord today?” That callous and disrespectful attitude toward the word of the Lord actually angered God. So God told Jeremiah, “When they ask you what the burden of the Lord is, you tell them ‘You are the burden of the Lord – and the Lord will deal with you as such.’”

As believers in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we need to make sure that we aren’t just saying the things that people want to hear… that we aren’t avoiding the hard and corrective words for fear of offending people and having our ministries cancelled. We also need to make sure that we aren’t joining in with the chorus of popular opinion and disrespecting what God is truly saying. God loves His creation, and He loves His people – and many times, He will speak a corrective word to draw people back to Himself and away from the things that lead to death. His corrective words may not be easy to say or easy to hear, but they are always loving. Looking back through history, we honor Jeremiah for his faithfulness to deliver the true word of God. Those other prophets are now nameless examples of what not to do. What kind of voice will we be?

NT: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God… The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with every kind of miracle, both signs and wonders serving the lie, and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:1-4, 9-10‬ ‭CSB)

Based on what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians, one of the subjects that he taught the believers, the short time he was in Thessalonica, was about the return of the Lord and the signs leading up to His return. That was a subject that Jesus taught on as well (Matthew 24-25). Apparently, as the persecution in Thessalonica increased, some in the church had a “prophetic word” that the day of the Lord had come. And that “prophetic word” was apparently followed up with a letter, claiming to be from Paul, that said the same thing. This caused the Thessalonian church to be troubled and confused. That is one of the main reasons Paul wrote this letter: to clear up the confusion. When people attempt to lay current events on top of Biblical prophecy to try and create a calendar of events, people get upset, troubled and confused. One commentator put it this way: “The purpose of Bible prophecy is not for us to make a calendar, but to build character.”

To address the false prophecy and clear up any confusion, Paul explained that there are events and spiritual changes that must occur before the Lord returns, and those events had not happened yet. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he explained that when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise and those who are alive in Christ will be caught up to meet Him in the air. That had not happened yet. Also, before Christ returns, the “man of lawlessness,” the “man doomed to destruction” will be fully revealed. John refers to this person in the book of Revelation as the Antichrist. Whether the Antichrist is a literal person or not, I don’t know – but I do know that it is a spirit. Anti means against – but it also means instead of. The Antichrist spirit seeks to oppose Christ and it seeks to set itself up in place of Christ – to move Christ completely out of the picture and make itself the subject of everyone’s worship. The Antichrist spirit has been working since Satan rebelled against God and was cast from heaven to earth… but there has always been someone holding the Antichrist spirit at bay. There will come a time when the cup of the world’s iniquity is filled up and the Antichrist spirit is no longer held in check. When that happens, those who have not accepted the love and truth of the gospel unto salvation will be overcome by the full display of the Antichrist and will be drug into deep wickedness and deception. Those things must happen before the coming of the day of the Lord.

Instead of trying to predict when the end times will come, we should instead allow the Biblical prophecies of the end times to help build our spiritual character… to help prepare us for what is ahead, so that we will be among the ones who through all the tribulation, will be found faithful and not given over to the Antichrist spirit.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You desire to speak to me – and when You speak to me, You speak in ways that I can understand. I thank you for the gift of Your Holy Spirit within me that enables me to hear Your voice and speak out words of prophecy to build up, stir up and comfort others. Help me to always be true to Your words and not be influenced by the spirit of the day. Help me also to know Your voice and not be led astray by false voices that are not from You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/26/M – The Vengeance of our King

Jeremiah 23:1-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12; Psalms 83:1-8; Proverbs 20:2-3

OT: ““Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who tend my people: You have scattered my flock, banished them, and have not attended to them. I am about to attend to you because of your evil acts” — this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands where I have banished them, and I will return them to their grazing land. They will become fruitful and numerous. I will raise up shepherds over them who will tend them. They will no longer be afraid or discouraged, nor will any be missing.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Look, the days are coming”  — this is the Lord’s declaration — “when I will raise up a Righteous Branch for David. He will reign wisely as king and administer justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. This is the name he will be called: The Lord Is Our Righteousness.” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭23:1-6‬ ‭CSB)

The authority that God gives to leaders is a great responsibility, especially among the people of God, for the leaders of the people have been delegated authority from God to care for the people and lead them in the ways of life and abundance. Where God is the Great Shepherd, delegated leaders are under-shepherds under His supreme authority and leadership. Therefore, those in leadership are held to a higher standard of accountability and are also corrected more strictly when they stray from God’s ways. King Josiah was the last good and righteous king of Judah. He had a zeal for the word, will and ways of the Lord and endeavored to lead the people of Israel away from the idolatrous ways of his fathers and back to the abundance and blessing that is found in God. After Josiah’s death, his sons forsook Josiah’s way of righteousness, became entangled in the corrupt political maneuverings of the day, and led the people back into faithlessness. This angered God greatly – for His delegated representatives were not representing Him at all, and were instead forsaking the good of the people for their own benefit and political standing.

As the leaders of Judah had forsaken Him, God would forsake the leaders of Judah – and would raise up a new generation of shepherds who would tend His sheep. Not only that, but a day was coming when God would also raise up a new and Righteous King… the promised Messiah from the lineage of David… a King named the Lord Our Righteousness, who would bring true salvation and security to the people of God. That King is Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Isn’t it interesting that before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told Simon Peter so feed His lambs and shepherd His sheep (John 21:15-17). The leaders of God’s church in Christ are called pastors (shepherds). They are under-shepherds to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Their role is to care for the sheep and lead them in the word, will and ways of the Lord – that they may find green pastures and still waters as they follow Christ. Woe to the shepherds who instead of leading the sheep to Christ, lead them astray for their own selfish benefit and political standing.

NT: “This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels, when he takes vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength on that day when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed. In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:7b-12‬ ‭CSB)

When Jesus stood in the Galilean synagogue and read from Isaiah 61, He said God had sent Him to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… and then purposely left out the part about proclaiming the day of God’s vengeance. God’s vengeance would indeed come, but Christ’s first coming was all about setting people free from sin. When Christ comes again – that will be the day of God’s vengeance. Though the Thessalonian believers were suffering persecution now – there would come a day when all of their persecution would be repaid to them in glory, and all the unrepentant persecutors would experience God’s just and righteous wrath. The believers faith in the midst of persecution was glorifying to the name of the Lord… and one day, the Lord would glorify them for eternity. Therefore, Paul prayed for them, that God would make them worthy of His calling and powerfully fulfill their every desire to do good by faith – so that on that great day of the Lord, they would receive their reward.

Proverbs: “A king’s terrible wrath is like the roaring of a lion; anyone who provokes him endangers himself.” (‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭20:2‬ ‭CSB)

This reminds me of a quite from C.S. Lewis’ book,”The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” When Susan found out that Aslan was a lion, she asked the beavers if he was safe. “‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver… ‘Who said anything about safe? Of Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’” God is not safe, and anyone who provokes Him endangers himself. But thankfully, for our sakes, He is good and merciful – and He has extended forgiveness, mercy and grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ… but God’s longsuffering and patience does not last forever. There will come a time, when all who have not taken His offer of forgiveness and mercy, will experience His terrible roar.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your amazing grace, for your unending love and Your mercy that is new every morning. I thank You that through repentance from sin and faith in You, I am forgiven from all my sin and have been rescued from the wrath of God. Help me to live worthy of the calling You have given me, and lead as many people as possible to experience the life and forgiveness that is found in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/25/Su – Counted Worthy

Jeremiah 22:1-30; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-6; Psalms 82:6-8; Proverbs 20:1

NT: “We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches — about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring. It is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:3-7a‬ ‭CSB)

It is believed that this second letter to the Thessalonians was written within a few weeks of Paul’s first letter. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul addressed the confusion and concerns that some had regarding the return of the Lord. They were confused about the afterlife and were concerned that their friends who had died in the faith would not get to experience the Lord’s return. After Paul’s first letter, he became aware that there was an erroneous teaching amongst the Thessalonian believers that the Day of the Lord has come. That teaching prompted some in the church to completely stop working and just wait for the Lord to call them up to meet Him in the clouds. This second letter was written to address the errant teaching and to explain how we are to conduct ourselves until the Lord does come again.

The Thessalonians were under a lot of persecution for their faith in Christ – so much so, Paul and his team were forced to flee from Thessalonica under the cover of night. After Paul left, the persecution did not subside. If anything, it intensified. This increased persecution may have even contributed to the Thessalonians buying into the false teaching that the Day of the Lord had come. That is understandable, even in our day, as many thought the Day of the Lord was soon approaching when 2020 began to unravel in weather disasters, a global pandemic, economic collapse, and societal upheaval. As Paul began his second letter to the Thessalonian church, he commended them for their faith and encouraged them in their afflictions.

Despite all the persecution they experienced, the fledgling believers in Thessalonica had persevered in their faith as they endured all kinds of affliction. Not only did they persevere – they flourished as their love for God and their love in Christ for one another kept growing. For that, Paul was extremely thankful – and even boasted about them to other communities of believers. Paul reminded them that their faithful endurance was not all for naught. Firstly, their steadfast faith in the Lord that manifested in increasing love was a sign and wonder for the world of God’s faithfulness to them. The fact that they were flourishing in the midst of adversity and affliction was evidence for God’s unwavering righteousness. Secondly, Paul wanted them to know that the more they endured persecution for the sake of the kingdom… the more they remained steadfastly faithful to the Lord as everything around them tried to push them out of faith, the more they were counted worthy of all the blessings of the kingdom of God. The more they endured, the more they had to look forward to when the Day of the Lord did finally come. As they remained faithful to God, God would be faithful and just on their behalf.

It is human nature to run away from persecution and affliction. Persecution doesn’t always look the same. Sometimes persecution looks like people calling you narrow-minded and hateful for remaining steadfastly faithful to God’s definition of righteousness and sin. Running away from persecution weakens the church and reduces your faith. Persevering through persecution by faith as you trust God with His righteous judgement and justice ends up growing the church, strengthening your faith and bringing glory to God. As the days grow darker, will we be counted worthy of the kingdom?

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You are always faithful to Your word. I never have to wonder of you are going to be faithful to me. Because You are always faithful, I can be faithful. As the world continues to grow more and more dark… as the devil continues to drag people into deception… as people all around me forsake righteousness for the desires of the flesh, help me by Your grace to remain faithful and endure through whatever affliction may come my way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

07/24/S – Functional Family

Jeremiah 20:7-21:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28; Psalms 82:1-5; Proverbs 19:27-29

NT: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.” (‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:12-24‬ ‭CSB)

At the close of his letter, Paul gave instruction and encouragement in what is required to live in and maintain a healthy family of faith. Paul saw the community of believers in Thessalonica as a family – which is why he referred to the believers as brothers and sisters. Healthy and functional family is a key component to life in Christ. Children need healthy families to survive the hardships of life and grow into mature adults. Without healthy and functional family, children will either not survive, or will grow into incomplete adults suffering from various levels of dysfunction. The same is true of believers in Christ: we need to belong to and participate in healthy and functional families of faith, otherwise we may become casualties of the world, the flesh and the devil, or we will “grow” into immature believers that do not have a fully functioning faith.

A family is like a body. For a body to function properly, it needs a head to provide leadership and direction to all parts of the body. The same is true of biological families and spiritual church families. If we ignore, disrespect or even despise the leaders of our families, chaos and anarchy will ensue, and the family will be completely dysfunctional. That is why Paul encouraged the spiritual family in Thessalonica to give recognition to (pay attention to, cherish, have regard for) those who have been given the responsibility of leadership. Every part of a body has a role to play. The head is just as much a part of the body as the appendix or the knee. Leaders in a family of faith are not and should not be separated from the rest of the family – they labor among the other family members in their role of leadership. For the family to function in health and be full of life, the leadership needs to be recognized and not resented.

Sometimes, certain parts of a body may struggle in their ability to carry out their function. When that happens, the entire body experiences the effect. The same is true of families. Not every family member is completely mature, fully healthy, and able to fulfill their role. In any family, there will be people who act up and become unruly. That is what the word ‘idle’ in this passage means. When that happens, they need to be warned, corrected and exhorted. There will be people who become discouraged and faint-hearted… not sure if they can do what they have been called to do and in danger of giving up. Those people need to be encouraged and comforted. There will be people who are weak, either in faith, strength or ability and are unable to carry their load. Those people need to be held on to and helped. In whatever failure or inability we may find in our family, we need to (as a family) persevere in patience – enduring the troubles, and bearing with and forgiving the offenses. A well-functioning body does not turn on it’s members. All of the members work together to function in health, and if one member is weak, the rest of the body compensates unto healing and wholeness. That is how our spiritual family should be – not turning on one another when there are disagreements, but always seeking the good for everyone and the good of the family as a whole.

How do we do that? Paul gave a list of practical things to do to remain healthy and fully functioning within the family of faith: Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything, don’t stifle the Spirit, don’t despise prophecies, test all things, hold on to what is good, and stay away from every kind of evil. If we are faithful in these things, the God of peace, who can bring peace and sustain peace in our families, will sanctify us (individually and corporately) into completeness and maturity.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You have placed me in family – both a biological family and a spiritual family. I need family in order to remain healthy and fully functioning. The global pandemic has made that truth evermore evident. There are no perfect families, but I can be perfectly fit into family and contribute to its health and strength by remaining in You and walking in the fullness of Your Spirit. Grace me to live and function in the family You have given me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.