God Keeps His Word–That’s Just His Way: Devotional for January 17, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 28-29, Mark 11

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

Jacob spoke these words prior to his arrival at Laban’s home. His mother sent him to her brother’s in order to protect him from his brother Esau’s wrath. Jacob secured the birthright. Esau foolishly gave away his blessing for some stew, showing that his immediate hunger for one meal meant more to him than the blessing God gave to him in his lifetime.

Esau also lost the blessing of Abraham through some sneaky maneuvering, giving him the role of progenitor (a role that belonged by birth to the oldest son–in this case, Esau). As a result of this second indignity, Esau was ready to kill his brother. But this was not the first time they would war. This began in the womb. Rebekah asked God why there was such aggressive behavior with her twins en utero.

And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you[a] shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.”

Genesis 25:23, The Old Testament

So, when Jacob heard from the Lord prior to his arrival to Haran and Laban’s home, God reinforced to Jacob the covenant He made to Abraham (Genesis 28:10). He called that place where he encountered the Lord Bethel. After this, Jacob made a beautiful vow:

“If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Genesis 28:20-22

God was with Him. His covenant stayed true. And with Jesus Christ, our True and Living Way that instituted the covenant, we can rest assured that God will stay true to His Word with us as well.

That’s always been His way!

The Highest Science, the Loftiest Speculation, the Mightiest Philosophy

All-Around Spurgeon

A Spirit-Anointed Teenage Preacher (Charles Spurgeon) - VanceChristie.com

It has been said by someone that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God who he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in the contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought…

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Christ Wants Doctrinal Clarity Among His People: Devotional for January 14, 2022

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Today’s Reading from the Five-Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 26-27, Mark 10

Occasionally, I hear from well-meaning believers that we should focus on Christ and not doctrinal matters, which some deem divisive. “Shouldn’t we bring people to Jesus and not one these issues that could drive people away from him?”

Yet, when Jesus was approached by many (disciples and religious leaders, specifically), He would respond with, “Have you not read…?” (such as part of our reading plan in Mark 10), or, in one instance, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

Clarity on doctrinal matters (read: what Scripture says) is an effort to move closer to the heart and mind of Christ, not further away. Moving away from doctrinal matters is not moving to a higher plain of spirituality but a different plain altogether. Moving away from doctrinal and biblical clarity is an arrogance, believing that the individual is able, untethered from Scripture, to convey God’s heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and test the mind” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a).

Beware of any motive that takes one away from Scripture–it is there you truly find God’s mind and heart.

What Does It Mean to Do Something in Jesus’ Name? Devotional for January 13, 2022

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Today’s reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 24-25, Psalm 4, Mark 9

What does it mean to do something in Jesus’ name?  Is Jesus’ name like a magic hocus-pocus chant?  The sons of Sceva in Acts 19 found out that this is not the case.  They saw Paul casting out demons and healing in the name of Jesus, but these enchanters saw it as a way to make some money and garner influence for themselves.  They used the name of Jesus, but the demon spoke back, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”  And the result was that demons attacked everyone to such a degree that they ran out naked.

To walk in Christ’s name means that you walk in His character, in His godly nature, and in trust of His Word and His work.  We have a high view of His Word, understanding its authority and its accuracy, and its sufficiency.  We have a high view of the majesty and glory and sovereignty of Almighty God.  We also have an understanding of the high view of the Gospel — of what sin truly is, what being a sinner truly is, and that trust in Jesus alone for salvation apart from your own work or merit is it!    This is the framework!  These are the non-negotiables!

In Mark 9:38, the Apostle John speaks up!  It should be known that this is the only time that he speaks on his own.  Here, he has a bit of a confession session — for he has not received one who was working in Christ’s name.  He confesses of a time when he saw someone casting out demons — someone not a part of the Twelve — and because of that, they tried to stop him. 

Now, don’t separate verse 38 from verse 37.  Many of our translations have a subheader right before v. 38, and that plays tricks on our minds because it subtly indicates that this is a different strain of thought.  Not so.  Jesus just said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Jesus tells him, “Don’t stop him!!!  If He’s truly working in my name (which was apparent by his successfully exorcising a demon), then he won’t turn against me anytime soon — he is a true servant of God!” 

We often believe that in order for someone to be our brother or sister or for us to fellowship with them, they have to believe exactly as we do in every single point.  Is this what Jesus had in mind?  Are we being more stringent than even our Lord was being? 

There’s a poem by an anonymous that really sums up this mindset:

            Believe as I believe, no more no less,
                        That I am right, and no one else confess.
            Feel as I feel, think as I think,
                        Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink,
            Look as I look, do always as I do,
                        Then and only then, I’ll fellowship with you.

This type of exclusivism runs rampant in our world and in our flesh!  We have to be discerning as to what God has set up as the appropriate and perfect standard and what our standard is! 

(From a sermon from 2005.)

When Fulfillments Become Idols : Devotional for January 12, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 21-23, Psalm 107, Mark 8

Imagine asking God for a God-sized request, something that only God could accomplish! Now, imagine Him giving that to you. You have three choices: (1) being thankful to God for answering, (2) taking the answer for granted, believing that God was obligated to answer in the first place, (3) turning that answer into an idol.

Genesis 21 is the fulfillment not just of a request that Abraham and Sarah had, but of a promise God gave to them that, after twenty-five years, He fulfilled. In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to take his teenage son to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him. Why? “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:12). God revealed Abraham’s heart that Yahweh was his true treasure.

When something is heavy on our hearts (whether it’s a hurt or a desire), that “thing” can so consume us that we begin to worship it–and that fulfillment can become an idol. God becomes a Santa Claus/butler/genie type of deity (which I would submit is no deity at all) rather than One who holds us and our future in His hands to do with what He sees fit as a sovereign, good, able, and faithful God.

In closing, Abraham is a picture of the Father, who did not withhold His only Son from us. God did provide that Lamb, the Lamb of God Jesus Christ on our behalf!

The Gospel According to Jonah

All through Scripture, the prophets received a message from God to pass along to His people. By the Spirit, God still gives messages to His people by the Spirit and anchored in the canon of Scripture. Sadly, many (even those who identify as God’s people). Jonah received a message from God telling him to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and tell them that they have violated God’s standard. Nineveh is located in modern day Mosul in Iraq.

God had a heart for Nineveh. Four times in Jonah, he calls Nineveh “that great city” (1:2; 3:2, 3:3; 4:11). Nineveh had demonstrated their abject wickedness, especially against Israel, over the centuries. In fact, they had overcome the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC and absorbed the ten tribes of Israel into their kingdom—bringing about a new people, the Samaritans, who were an object of derision by Jesus’ day. During Jonah’s day, they struggled with famine and other challenges that some believe made them believe they were outside of favor with some deity. The population of Nineveh was approximately 120,000.  

Jonah did not want to go, as the text tells us. Jonah did not want to see God’s favor extend to another. God’s prophecies were for God’s people, as he himself experienced. In 2 Kings 14:23-27, God gave Jonah a prophecy of mercy to his own people who did not deserve this.

Will You Say “No” When God Says “Go,” Part I: The Gospel According to Jonah (Jonah 1:1-16) (Video)

Will You Pray High When Life Goes Low? Part II–The Gospel According to Jonah (Jonah 1:17-2:10) (Video)

Will You Go Strong When Your Flesh is Weak? Part III – The Gospel According to Jonah (Jonah 3:1-10) (Video)

Will You Stay Complacent While God Calls for Compassion? Part IV – The Gospel According to Jonah (Jonah 4:1-11) (Video)

Do You Delight in the World More Than the Word? Devotional for January 11, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 19-20; Psalm 1; Mark 7

The only way to being one who prospers is by pursuing the One who prospered and
prosper. Are you comfortable with sin?

This “blessed man” is one who is happy and content in the covenant relationship of Christ. You see, Satan is crafty and subtle (Genesis 3:1). His aim is to go however methodically is needed in order to have us planted in his preferred spot. John Calvin said, “It is the policy of Satan to insinuate his deceits, in a very crafty way, the prophet, in order that none may be insensibly deceived, shows how by little and little mean
ordinarily induced to turn aside from the right path.”

We must beware of the slippery slope. “Walks not in the counsel of the wicked.” The wicked person is still
moving along in his life but takes counsel with those living outside of God’s prescribed design.

“Stands in the way of sinners.” Here we see the person stopping in the path and lifestyle of those living outside of God’s design purpose.

“Sits in the seat of scoffers”–here we are looking at once pulling up a chair and planting themselves in the habit of a lifestyle. Gradual erosion.

Have you even entertained something that God is not pleased with or is outside of his design, and the slide has been so gradual that you wonder, “How did I get here? What in the world happened to where this is going on?

Yet, where should we plant ourselves? “His delight is in the law of the Lord… on
His law, he meditates day and night.”

Are you comfortable in the company of sin? Or are you comfortable in the delight of His Word?

The Problem with Taking Shortcuts: Devotional for January 10, 2022

Today’s Bible reading from the Five-Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 16-18, Mark 6

Genesis 16 serves as a prime example for taking a shortcut with God’s promises. In the previous chapter, God reinforced with Abraham that he would have a child. Abraham and Sarah were both 75 and 66, respectively, when the original promise was given in Genesis 12:1-3. Here they are in Genesis 16, eleven years later and get older by the day. Would God fulfill the promise truly?

Here is the episode that turned much of human history:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife (Genesis 16:1-3, ESV).

Sarah resented the Lord, whom she believed “prevented” her from having a child. Abraham opted to listen to the voice of his wife rather than the promise of God. Both were shortcutting God’s promises due to a lack of patience on Sarah’s part and a lack of trust on Abram’s.

The result? Hagar’s child would serve as a thorn in the Jews’ side for all of history. Yet, even more this serves as an example for the problem of taking shortcuts with God’s Word. We must trust His plan and His timetable.

Are you impatient with God’s timing? Are you shortcutting His promises? Doing so has consequences. No sin occurs in a vacuum–repercussions ensue in ways we cannot imagine. In Christ, all of God’s promises are “yes” (see 2 Corinthians 1:20).