Bible Reading Blog
Congregational Bible Reading
BIBLE READING: Proverbs 22
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22.1)
Enron was the largest oil and gas conglomerate in the late 1990’s. They were making money left and right, and their stock was through the roof. Everybody was investing in Enron back then. But then the bottom fell out. They were exposed committing corporate fraud, filed for bankruptcy, and the company collapsed. In the years that followed, the company tried to get itself back together and move on, but nobody wanted anything to do with “Enron”. In order to move past everything, the company was forced to change its name.
In our world having money will allow you to do a lot of things. It allows us to have influence over people, which can do good and encourage change. But the father says having a good name is better than that… why? We learn from experience that our name means something, and it matters what people think about when they hear your name. You can be the wealthiest person in the world, but if people think you’re a scoundrel it doesn’t matter what you have.
What this proverb teaches is the power of influence and integrity. A good name is valuable because it demonstrates that we are people who do what we say we’re going to do ... and that is worth more than any amount of money.
For Christians, this should matter to us. I know you can’t control everything people think about you, but you can control your decision to do what it right, regardless of the circumstances. “Live such good lives among [those of the world] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2.12, NIV)
What do people think of when they hear your name?
Christians should be people that are consistent, trustworthy, and prudent. But there is more at stake than just our reputation. We are stewards of Jesus’ name. Those who do not know him will judge him based on our lifestyle and actions. Sadly, we have seen this taken lightly, and why many slanderously call Christians “hypocrites”. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17), we have a serious responsibility to uphold the honor of Jesus. This means, we must “Look carefully how [we] walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time…” (Ephesians 5.15-16) and “As much as depends on you, live at peace with all men” (Romans 12.18).
We will not win people to Christ through our accomplishments, abilities or what we have to offer them, but by showing them the life of Christ. His name is above every other name (Philippians 2.9); his integrity and faithfulness beyond all others (Deuteronomy 7.9; 2 Timothy 2.13). We honor his name when we emulate his compassion, mercy and love to others (1 John 2.6). When others talk about you, does it help or hurt the name of Jesus?
“Live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it.” -Anonymous
BIBLE READING: Psalm 53
"The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”” (Psalm 53.1)
To say the sun isn’t real does not make it true or cause the sun to be non-existent. It is clearly seen by everyone. We may debate how to define it’s existence, but its being is a matter of objectivity. So it is with God. “His invisible attributes are clearly seen” (Romans 1.20); so, to reject God is to reject reality.
These verses immediately call the atheist to mind, but they press further to also depict someone living thoughtless of God’s reality. God looks down from heaven and sees everything that is going on (Psalm 53.2), and yet this person lives unaware of God’s presence (Psalm 53.3). They make choices based on their own understanding, and do not consider God.
There are certain immutable traits about God we quickly admit but far too often fail to consider. If I believe that God exists (Hebrews 11.6) and that he sees my every move, shouldn’t I be considerate of how I live my life before him? We do this with our bosses, people of authority, and those with whom we are trying to gain favor… why then do we sometimes fail to do this with God?
Whether intentional or not, thoughtless living is foolish living. It is ignorant, and, frankly, is an affront to God (Malachi 1.5-14). He has revealed himself as our Maker, and his expectations for our existence. In fact, he continually reveals himself, using his creation as a witness to his existence so that we would not live thoughtless of him (Psalm 19.1-6). And so we are without excuse (Romans 2.1).
All of us will neglect God and go our own way (Romans 3.10-23, cf. Psalm 14), but by His grace and mercy we have opportunity to make better choices (Romans 6.1, 12-14). Since this is the case, then what sort of people ought we to be in response? (2 Peter 3.9).
We may not come out and say ‘there is no God’ but sometimes we live as if he doesn’t exist. We become near-sighted and caught up in the logistics of this life. The foolishness of these choices are not always evident now but they will be some day ( 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10). We need to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3.2), as we wait for what God has promised. This is our confident hope: “There is a God, He is alive, in Him we live, and we survive.”
“...what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, ... since you are waiting for [this], be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation...” (2 Peter 3.11-12, 14-15)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 50
“…every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hill, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fulness are mine.” (Psalm 50.10-12)
My toddler is in the “this is mine” phase. She takes pillows off the couch, food from pantry, or clothes from our dresser, holds them close and declares “this is mine!” Sometimes it is selfish and other times she uses it to do something nice like “give” us a present. We always laugh because we know none of it actually belongs to her… but she doesn’t understand that yet.
It appears God’s people had taken this same approach in worship. They offered sacrifices as though it were some great thing they were giving to God (Psalm 50.8-9), but He simply reminds them “I am God…” (Psalm 50.7). The sacrifices God required were not a gift from man to God, but a submission to give back to God (Psalm 50.7-11).
Even today God’s people have nothing of physical value to offer Him. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24.1). The most “valuable things” in this world ultimately belong to God and therefore speak to His greater glory (Haggai 2.7-9). This does not mean we have nothing to give. However, because He is Creator and we are created, He doesn’t ask us to consider His needs. He tells us to obey his commands (Exodus 19.5-6; John 14.15). To impose our think-sos or ignore His words (Psalm 50.17; 2 Thessalonians 1.8) are an affront to His existence.
“you thought that I was one yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.” (Psalm 50.21)
God is relationally similar to us, which makes it is easy to humanize God. Like a child with limited understanding, we assume because we get hungry, tired, frustrated, annoyed etc. God feels the same things we do, in the same ways. But He is distinctly different, and we must not treat Him as our contemporary.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform our vows to the Most High and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50.14-15)
Although He doesn’t exist as we do, we are designed as vehicles of His goodness and holiness (Psalm 50.5-6; Ephesians 1.4). He gives to us so we will benefit and bless Him in this world. We only know about God what He has revealed to us. We must be cautious not to impose on Him our characteristics and rationale. Rather, in humility, we ought to be thankful for what we are given and take it seriously.
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as a sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50.22-23)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 44
“...for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!” (Psalm 44.22-23)
Although the psalmist’s distress presents physically, his struggle is in the mind and spirit. What he believes about God appears incongruent with present circumstances. As God is his witness (Psalm 44.20-21) he has not forgotten the covenant (Psalm 44.17-18), and yet there appears to be a failure in God’s response to his suffering (Psalm 44.24-25).
In the OT, many of God’s promises were manifest in physical protection for his people (see Deuteronomy 33.29). In fact, this psalmist has not only heard of God’s actions (Psalm 44.1-3), but even experienced His salvation among God’s people (Psalm 44.4-8). It seemed fitting that God should do nothing but bless those who claim his name (Psalm 44.8). But instead God seems to have rejected these people (Psalm 44.9-16).
As the psalmist holds onto hope, he pleads for salvation and redemption (Psalm 44.23, 26). In this context, we are not given the immediate outcome of the psalmist’s situation; but God does not leave this as a loose end. Paul applies this psalm as he speaks of God’s ultimate vindication for the righteous.
“...If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (cf. Romans 8.31-37)
The suffering remains, but notice there is now a clear source of vindication in Christ. He is the hope in the struggle because, in him, one remains connected to God regardless of physical circumstances. Where the psalmist felt abandoned, believers today should feel confident that God has overcome the struggles of the world (John 16.33)
Suffering has always been a practicality for the believer (2 Timothy 3.12; 1 Peter 5.10), but so has dependence on God (Proverbs 3.5-6). These work together to mature our faith and spiritual focus (James 1.2-4, 12). Like this psalmist, there are times which appear bleak for believers; but God’s promise is never simply for the present. It is through these sufferings and for His sake, God will vindicate those who are faithful to him, in Christ (Psalm 44.17; Hebrews 11.6; 2 Peter 1.10).
Believers must live with this big-picture perspective. We must look back to what God has done (Romans 15.4) and consider our present circumstances in light of what God has promised will be (2 Peter 3.9-13) with the understanding that God’s work in our life is not finished in our present condition (Romans 8.19-25).
“Let us hold fast our confession of hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10.23)
BIBLE READING: Job 20-21
“…the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment… The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him… This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.” (Job 20.5, 27, 29)
In observing the conversation between Job and his friends, it can be difficult to distinguish between righteousness and human rationale. Job’s friends offer some compelling arguments and there are times when Job appears pretentious in defense of his righteousness.
If you’re like me, you may relate to how Job’s friends approach the situation. If things aren’t going well, we encourage people to make changes because what they’re doing isn’t working and God isn’t the one who is changing (Malachi 3.6). While these thoughts have some merit, there are a couple of things we must remember:
1. No one really knows “why” anything is happening. It seems fair to affirm God’s judgment upon the wicked, because there is a degree to which this will be true (Psalm 1.5; 75.10; Ecclesiastes 3.17). However, God’s judgment is promised as ultimate and final, meaning it may not be realized in this life. Wisdom teaches sometimes the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper (Psalm 73.12-14; Job 21.7-ff), and that time and chance happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9.11). To assert that Job is suffering for his choices is to make judgments in a place where God had not completely revealed himself. We can fairly assert what we know about God, but to presume we know his purposes and rationale is a step too far (Job 42.7-8).
2. We need to be cautious how we represent God. To definitively state God’s purposes communicates that we know all that God knows. As well-meaning as it may be, this is an affront to God. The sovereign purposes and infinite nature of God cannot be defined by our feeble human mind. We can only know what God has revealed about himself and his will. It is his place to assert judgment. It is his character and prerogative that defines what is and what is not.
This doesn’t negate conviction or assertion of godly principles, but we must do it with humility and grace. We are not God. “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8.28). We will never be exactly where someone else is in terms of faith and understanding. We know that God allows what he wills to shape and enlighten us, if we are willing. And so, let us humbly affirm God’s sovereignty so that we too may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4.16).
“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12. 16)