Bible Reading Blog

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Don't Put Your Trust in Men

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 146

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146.3-4)

All around us, we see undeniable proof of how people crave someone to trust in. Think of all the people we raise up as examples and heroes and saviors. As if the future of the world—or the Lord’s Church—depends on a person. It’s no surprise many feel so hopeless and discouraged. This psalm warns of two realities with human leaders:

  • No human can truly save you. Our politicians promise a lot of things, but no one can insulate you from poverty, racism or disease. Even the good ones can only affect circumstances for a season. What’s the chance they can save from sin and death and hell? Zero! In fact, every person needs saving for himself or herself. Any person you may raise up, can be torn down in some way. Everyone is sinful. If you put your trust in princes, you won’t be saved.
  • Every leader will die; and when they do, their plans will die with them. In fact, even before death, how many leaders have been overridden and unable to accomplish their purposes? Men can conqueror and subdue and assert themselves in their time, but when they die there is no guarantee any of that will continue. Men are limited, ultimately by death.

God knows the temptation to exalt men, even among his own people. In Corinth, church members were name dropping to show which “man of renown” they chose to align themselves with (1 Corinthians 1.12-13). How often in history, past and recent, have churches and individual believers, given undue place to men, and suffered the consequences? They may well have been gifted and godly men, men God greatly used. But in our lives, we see exactly what the bible describes. There is no human leader who can truly offer what we need. Have we learned our lesson?

“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (Isaiah 2.22, NIV)

The best of men, especially the most spiritually gifted of men, need their fellow believers to remind them constantly, ‘What do you have that you did not first receive?’ (1 Corinthians 4.7). All Christians need to kill the temptation that regularly worms its way into our minds to make more of men than we should. God is not tied to using anyone to fulfil his purposes. He could easily do all his holy will using no-one and nothing. There may be turmoil in the world and no good, clear leadership; but God still reigns. We must never forget who we serve and put our trust only in him. 

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146.5-7)

The Purpose of His Kindness

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 145

“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145.8-9)

Grace. Mercy. Longsuffering. Covenantal faithfulness. This is the language God has always used towards his people. Especially in the days of the prophets, God reiterated these behaviors and the purpose of his kindness.  “...Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2.13)

In this time, God’s people had strayed from him; but his desire was for mercy and restoration. This message was given as a consistent reminder of God’s hope for his people to return and be healed (ex. Jeremiah 15.19Hosea 14.13). But this language is not unique to Israel: God offered the same message to even the most wicked people. Jonah was sent to the to call the murderous Assyrians (Nahum 3.1-3) to repentance. But he didn’t want to go because, “I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. (Jonah 4.2). God’s mercy and kindness has always been impartial, even to those who Jonah saw as the most unworthy. That’s exactly the point of God’s kindness.

The consistency of God‘s language reminds us that God's nature has not changed. He made promises and he intends to keep them. He will bless those who obey and bring judgment on those who do not. Paul would expound on this to the Romans: 

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? ... He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury... For God shows no partiality." (See Romans 2.4-11)

God's greatest desire is for mercy to triumph over judgment (James 2.13) but that does not negate our need to respond. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3.9)

Ultimately God recognizes everyone’s need for mercy and has made provisions through his kindness for that to be possible (Romans 11.30-32). But all must respond in self-denial and repentance. His promises, both for good and bad, remain. Will we see his kindness and continue unchanged or will we turn and come to him?

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works... The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Psalm 145.1720)

He Knows

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 139

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139.1)

Is there anything God doesn’t know? Is there any place he couldn’t go? Are there any circumstances that take him off guard? If we believe God is Creator, the answer is “no.” He’s been there, he’s done that, he’s thought of everything. There is no circumstance or place that can elude him because he made it. You could be in the most secluded place in the world, in a secret hiding place no one knew about, and God would be aware. Not only that, but he would know what you were thinking and feeling.

To consider the level of God’s intimate knowledge in my life can be terrifying. As the old hymn writer said, “There’s an all-seeing eye watching you.” But it’s not intended to be a scare tactic. Instead, it ought to give us great comfort. His eyes were on us even before we were formed (Psalm 139.15-16a). His knowledge extends throughout our entire life into every single moment we exist (Psalm 139.16b). He was intimately involved in our conception and continues to be invested in our lives.

He is our Maker, and with that comes an inherent concern for us. Like a parent with their children, God is constantly aware and thoughtful of our well-being. He knows the challenges we will face. He knows what our desires will be. He knows the tough choices we have to make. But unlike a parent God knows EXACTLY what we need and has given us everything we NEED to make the best choices (2 Peter 1.3).

So, we must understand that God is not out to get us, as some people think. He didn’t give us his word simply to assert his dominance, but to communicate love. He knows full and well what we need. If his thoughts become our thoughts, and his ways become our ways, they take into account any challenge in our future. Ultimately, his word both restores and revitalizes our weary souls (Psalm 1.1-3; 23.3).

The psalm began with the reality of God’s awareness, and ends with a similar thought, but in the present tense. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139.23-24). God’s power and presence are intended for our comfort and guidance; but we must acknowledge and submit to his nature. He will lead us if we humbly trust that he knows what’s best for us.

“When I told you of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.” (Psalm 119.26-27)

Leaning In and Looking Up

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 131

“… I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 131.2)

No one is more selfish than a newborn. They are demanding, insistent and brutishly unapologetic about it. Time after time you feed them, and yet 2 hours later they’re demanding your attention as if you had no idea what you were doing. By the way they act, you would think they had never eaten before.

It’s a frustrating season of life, but over time things begin to change. Children pick up on patterns from their parents. They see that mom and dad are always taking care of their needs. They may not appreciate it, but on a basic level they come to trust their parents (hence why they’re always pulling on our pant legs and begging for food). As they experience the satisfaction of getting what they need, they find peace in your consistent care. This doesn’t mean their needs have gone away. Instead, they have learned to lean into the people providing for them and whom they have come to trust.

When we feel our needs are not being met, our emotions often move towards anxiety or frustration. Even as adults, we want satisfaction, or at least resolution and become very “me-focused”. This anxiety often creates momentum in our hearts. As a result, we feel inclined to make rash decisions or allow things to come out of our mouth that are improper. Much like a nursing infant, we behave thoughtless of the One who has promised to meet our needs. We may think that life is more complicated, or our needs are different than that of a child’s; but the reality is we’re all just looking for comfort and satisfaction.

Sometimes we just need to slow down and lean into our Father. Knowing Him more intimately doesn’t get rid of our needs but reminds us that He will always meet them… and so much more (Matthew 6.25-33; Ephesians 3.20)! The peace we all desire comes when we rest in his promises. But to find rest I must acknowledge that I am just a weaned child, old enough to walk but not old enough, strong enough or wise enough to know how to get there without help.

What we desire most is what God offers; but we must learn to trust Him. Not just a verbal acknowledgment but a learned practice and appreciation of God’s providence (Proverbs 3.5-6). He works “all things together for good” (Romans 8.28), but sometimes that means we have to “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27.14). If your heart is anxious, have you talked to your Father about it? Have you recounted the ways he has provided for you? Are you behaving like an impatient newborn or are you leaning in and looking up?

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46.10)

With You There is Forgiveness

Friday, January 22, 2021

BIBLE READING: Psalm 130

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130.3-4)

In a dramatic scene from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, the White Witch charged Edmund with being a traitor. Although contrite about his choices, the charges were true. The witch vehemently accused Edmund before Aslan, the true king of the people, whom all the people expected to come to the defense of Edmund. But in this moment his demeanor changed, and he acknowledged that she was right. Everyone was stunned; but instead of releasing Edmund to the witch, Aslan spoke to her, and privately arranged a deal for Edmund’s justification. As the witch left the camp, Edmund breathed a sigh of relief and the crowd erupted in cheers for Aslan. Little did they know what it would cost.

Late in the evening, when everyone was asleep Aslan surrendered himself to the White Witch. He had agreed to pay the price for the young man’s choices, with his own life. With sinister pleasure the witch and her cohorts murdered Aslan. As Edmund’s sisters watched in horror, all they could ask is, “Why?”

This story depicts the consequences of sin. Regardless of how insignificant they are to us, sins require reparation. The bible centers our attention on this serious reality: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6.23); “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18.20); “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3.23). We may not fully understand why this is so, but the reality of these truths remind us that sin has eternal consequences which we cannot overcome. If God were to hold us accountable, we would all be condemned because God is just.

But that is not the extent of God’s character, and that is not the end of the story. In his great mercy, Jesus bore our sins and paid the price. The result is that every legal demand and right Satan has on us through sin has been paid (Colossians 2.14).

In the novel’s climax, Aslan revives, overcoming death and evil. The Witch and her powers had no right over him because there was nothing of which to accuse him. In the same way, Jesus Christ, could not be overcome by the forces of evil. Jesus boldly proclaimed “[Satan] has no claim on me!” (John 14.30). This, my friends, is good news for everyone.

But to appreciate the choices of Jesus, we must first walk in the shoes of Edmund: convicted, condemned, and at the mercy of someone greater than us. We are hopeless. But God in his great love, could not bear to let us remain that way (Ephesians 2.4). Inexplicably, God’s desire is for our salvation, even so that he would take our place to make it happen (John 3.16; 2 Peter 3.9). As we look upon the horror of Jesus’ death, we may also ask, “Why?” The psalmist tells us: “with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared” (Psalm 130.3).

God’s actions of love should bewilder us, but it is clear what he wants. He is a God to be feared, followed and honored with our thanksgiving. In Christ, he is "merciful and will remember our sins no more" (Hebrews 8.12). And so, let us “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12.13).

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.56-58)

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