Humble Yourself

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

It is too easy when we hear a principle to keep it so general it is hardly applicable at all. For instance, Jesus could simply say, “Humble yourself.” Or just, “Be humble.” Instead, He gives an extremely specific example. When invited to a feast, don’t assume the seat of honor. Instead, sit in the place of least significance. Of course, if we assume Jesus is only talking about wedding feasts, we have a problem. After all, if Jesus’s example is taken too literally, it becomes nothing more than another way to gain honor for yourself. In fact, it becomes all about propping yourself up in front of others, which is never Jesus’s true intent. Rather, Jesus is using this particular illustration to point out that if we don’t humble ourselves, God will. It will not be pleasant when He does. However, the opposite is not true. That is, folks today will say, “If I don’t promote myself, who will?” That isn’t how it works in the kingdom of Christ. Self-promotion is never the right path. Humble yourself. If God wants you exalted, He will do it. If not, be thankful you were invited to His feast at all and enjoy a place at the table.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 14.

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What’s Up with the Sheep and Goats?

Today’s reading is Matthew 25.

What is going on with the sheep and the goats in Jesus’s teaching about judgment? What I have missed for years is this is actually a commentary on Ezekiel 34. There, Ezekiel spoke against the shepherds of Israel, but also the flock itself. In Ezekiel 34:17, God says, “Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats.” He then goes on to rebuke the members of the flock for selfishly caring for themselves while leaving others their muddy tramplings. These “strong” sheep would butt and abuse the “weak.” Jesus is providing a commentary about this passage. What does this judgment look like? It is not just judging against those who actively mistreat their brethren. It is also a judgment against those who do not care for the brethren in need. Only those who visit their sick, weak, hungry, oppressed brethren in their need, caring for their fellow flock and kingdom members will remain in God’s flock under God’s shepherd. The rest will be judged and cast out. The question then is are we caring for our brothers and sisters? Or are we focusing on ourselves and ignoring our brothers and sisters? Jesus cared so much He left heaven to lift up the weak sheep. Let’s follow in His footsteps because when we visit our brothers and sisters in their need, we are visiting Jesus in His need just as He visited us. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Matthew 26.

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A Modern Pharisee

Today’s reading is Matthew 23.

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples, ‘The Pharisees do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their social media reach wide and the posts of their actions long. They love the likes and retweets they receive. They love to have the place of honor on the internet, competing for friends and likes. They love to have the greetings of those who agree with what they say and jump to their defense when someone disagrees. But you are not to be called Teacher or Father, for you are all siblings. And you have one Teacher who is Jesus. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.'”

So says the guy writing a blog post. Yes, I get it. And I’m talking to me as much as to anyone else. This platform can accomplish great good. At the same time, it can lead us down a subtly dark and sinful path. As we navigate it, let’s be fearlessly and thoroughly honest about what we are doing here. And let’s make sure it is always and only God whom we are glorifying.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 24.

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Don’t Wait for Strength

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 12.

When it comes to spreading the gospel, many of us are waiting around until we are strong enough, smart enough, good enough. Don’t! We are strongest when we are content with our weakness. Don’t misunderstand, if you don’t know what the gospel is or means, don’t try to share it with someone. But the heart of the gospel is that we are not strong enough, therefore we need Jesus. Why then would we wait around until we are strong enough to teach the gospel to teach it? Step out in faith. Step out in reliance upon God. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. Sure, there will be embarrassing moments. But you’ll never be strong enough to convert people, so why wait around for that. Recognize how weak you are and step out onto the gospel battlefield with your faith in the Lord. It is His gospel that is powerful enough to save, not your strengths or smarts.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Corinthians 13.

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All for Edification

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14.

Let everything be done for edification, Paul says. Why? Because love builds up (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). And what is the most excellent way? Love. What is the greatest principle? Love. Thus, pursuing love doesn’t mean simply having warm emotional feelings about people. It means when I gather with the brothers and sisters, what I’m most concerned about is not proving how awesome, talented, or gifted I am. Rather, I’m most concerned about building up the people around me. Realize what this means. The rules of 1 Corinthians 14 aren’t about the rules, they are merely the practical outworking of loving my brothers and sisters. When we “go to church,” we need to make sure all we do is for edification. We need to make sure all we do is out of love.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.

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Common Temptations

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.

For a long time, I got the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13 exactly backwards. I have read it for most of my life as saying God let’s everyone get tempted in the same ways as I have, so I am obviously able to overcome the temptations. WRONG! Paul’s point is for me to take a look at what has happened to everyone else who plays around with and lingers in temptation. In the specific context, he is addressing the Corinthian desire to eat in the idols’ temples. He encourages them to look at how everyone else handled the temptations present in eating before idols. The Israelites ate and drank before the idol, then they rose up to play. That is, eating before the idol led to certain sin (Exodus 32). The Israelites started committing immorality with the daughters of Moab, and it led them to idolatry and destruction (Numbers 25). The Israelites put God to the test, and were destroyed by serpents. Interestingly, the very deliverance for them, the bronze serpent, later became a stumbling block of idolatry (Numbers 21, 2 Kings 18). Paul’s point is to notice how people commonly react to these common temptations. They fall. Then they get judged. What makes me arrogantly think I’ll be different from everyone else in the face of these very common temptations. Sadly, for the longest time, due to an unfortunate verse and paragraph break in the printed version of the Bible I use, I’ve missed Paul’s real point. Yes, God has provided a way of escape. But the way of escape is not right up close to the temptation. The way of escape is to flee the temptation. In context, to flee from idolatry. But really, if I would overcome sin, I must flee what tempts me. After all, my temptations are common to men and women of all time. How has everyone reacted when they cozied up to temptation? They have fallen. I will too. It is high time to take God’s path of escape by fleeing. That is my goal today. How about yours?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 11.

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On Love and Knowledge

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8.

God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. That is always true. However, we must take care. If we allow that truth to overrun every other aspect of our service, our knowledge will destroy our brethren and us as well. Our knowledge is to be governed by love. Just because I know something, doesn’t mean I am to live it. That approach is one of arrogance, being puffed up by supposed spiritual superiority. Rather, I am to lovingly humble myself before others that they may be built up in the most holy faith. We are to protect our brothers and sisters at every turn. We are to love them more than we love our knowledge. We are to prove our love to our brethren, not prove our intelligence to anyone.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 9.

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