Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking this past week about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, walking away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (Luke 2:1). What powerful truth and what precious comfort are contained in this familiar verse! Here we see that God’s purposes are perfectly and promptly completed. Did you think that kings, or presidents, or dictators make history? No! They are but instruments in the hand of the eternal and purposeful God. Hundreds of years before, God had spoken through the prophet Micah saying:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). What does the psalmist mean when he tells us to enter the gates of God with thanksgiving? If I might put it so simply and colloquially, it means “Don’t even think about coming into God’s presence without praise on your lips.” God’s goodness is infinite, and God’s blessings are abundant, and so thanksgiving is the only appropriate response.
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). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it (Genesis 9:6-7). God knows that humans are fallen, broken creatures. Even as Noah steps off the Ark into the new, post-Flood world, God is already addressing the issue of homicide.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer … let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6) Prayer is the means God has given us for unburdening our souls. This is important to consciously, biblically affirm. Otherwise, we may feel weighed down with anxiety, with guilt, with discouragement, or with sorrow and yet have no solution for these soul burdens. Does that perhaps describe you?
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! (Psalm 139:1) Notice two things from this brief statement. First, it recognizes the fact that God knows us, is intimately acquainted with us. Second, it is a prayer. It is a prayer from the psalmist, talking to God, and recognizing God’s ever-presence with him. This is the essence of walking with God.
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Corinthians 15:24-25) Together, these two verses form one of the most encouraging and comforting pictures of reality to be found anywhere in Scripture! Every minute of time between Christ’s ascension into heaven and Christ’s triumphant return to earth is summed up here. When Jesus Christ comes again, he will have destroyed every opposing power or authority.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Psalm 104:14-15). The psalmist is worshiping God for all his creative acts and wonders. And among the things God gets credit for, according to Scripture, is the results of human labor!
A very mature Christian came to me recently and said, “I want to learn more about doing family devotions well.” Not long after, I had a very edifying conversation with a gray-haired saint who was wanting to study a particular Bible topic together. These encounters just reminded me of this fact: the wise person is always seeking to become wiser still. The truly spiritual person recognizes his or her constant need for spiritual growth.
The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Genesis 2:20-22) What a precious scene!
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1) Genesis 16:16 concluded by specifically stating that Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Abram’s child Ishmael. Now the very next verse, in Genesis 17:1, frankly dates the next narrative as being when Abram was 99 years old — a period of 13 years! Did Abram go 13 years without even hearing from God? It certainly seems possible. Abram had to live by faith during a painful time of waiting and probably