Riding the Pendulum

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

Whether this psalm and the last are placed next to each other for this purpose or not, there is a striking contrast between the two. In Psalm 30:6, David wrote, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.'” in Psalm 31:22, he writes, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.'” In the previous psalm, because of David’s confidence, pride, and swagger, the Lord hid His face and David was dismayed (though, admittedly, the ultimate outcome of that psalm is David’s deliverance). In this psalm, because of David’s humility, penitence, and prayer, the Lord delivers. This contrast shows what happens in our life. We ride the pendulum. One day, we ride high in confidence. The next, we scrape the bottom in terror. One day, our pride is getting the better of us. The next, our humility draws us closer to God. As all this is going on, this contrast draws out something we learned in Psalm 30 as well. We all want the good times, the mountaintop experiences, but often it is the valleys that teach and grow us the most. It’s hard to thank God for His testing and refining fires, but this gives us reason to count it all joy when we meet various trials. After all, the trials produce steadfastness, steadfastness grows us to maturity, maturity strengthens love, and those who love God receive the crown of life (see James 1:2-4, 12).

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 31.

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Our Real King

Today’s reading is Psalm 5.

David, king of Israel wrote this psalm, but when He cries out to the Lord, he says, “My King and my God.” How humbling it must be for a king to bow before another and say, “My King.” But there it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m the boss, the mayor, the CEO, the governor, a doctor, a lawyer, the President, or the Queen, I need to follow David’s example. Whatever role I play in this world, at home, on the job, in the community, there is a real King in authority over me: God. But taking this a step further, can anyone who has read John’s account of the gospel not hear the echoes of Thomas’s confession to Jesus in John 20:28? “My Lord and my God,” Thomas confessed. Yes, yes, the wording is slightly different. But notice how often “Lord” is used in Psalm 5 around David’s confession. What had Thomas come to believe having witnessed the resurrected Jesus? Jesus is King, Jesus is God, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Yahweh. Jesus is the King and God to whom David was offering his psalm. We have a real King. His name is Yahweh; His name is Jesus. Today, let us give Him our complete allegiance.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 5.

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The Kings Rage

Today’s reading is Psalm 2.

How easy it is to read the beginning of Psalm 2 and point our fingers at the world around us. We can talk about kings, presidents, prime ministers, governors, mayors, and on the list goes. We can rebuke them for raging against the Lord; almost all of them do. However, there is one king who is the biggest perpetrator in this passage. There is one kingdom/nation that really violates this. The Kingdom of Me. Too often, as I try to establish my own little kingdom and assert personal control over my life, I’m actually raging against the Lord. I counsel with myself about how my life is an exception to a passage or principle. I can convince myself my way is the best way. In fact, surely my way is God’s way. Sometimes, the king’s rage is actually mine. But oddly enough, I don’t ever count it as raging. I don’t see how mad, crazy, or silly me pursuing my own way really is. My way will fail. Only God’s way works. May the king of my own personal fiefdom surrender to the King of all that exists. May he start today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 2.

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Listen to Those Who Know More (Apollos: Part 2)

Today’s reading is Acts 18.

Apollos was eloquent. He was competent. He had been instructed. He was fervent in spirit. He spoke and taught many things accurately. However, he was wrong about John’s baptism. And that is where Priscilla and Aquila come in. They taught him the way of God more accurately. How did Apollos respond? He listened. This shows us the flip side of Apollos from what we learned yesterday. Apollos was bold. He didn’t know what he didn’t know, but he didn’t sit on the side lines fretting that he didn’t know enough to get the message out. He got it out there. But for all his boldness, he also had humility. He was willing to listen when someone came along with more accurate teaching. In these two parts of Apollos, we see the perfect combination of characteristics for teaching, preaching, evangelism, gospel work. Don’t be so humble that you never speak. Don’t be so bold that you never listen. Or, saying it in a positive light, be bold enough to speak, but humble enough to listen and learn. That’s Apollos for you.

Next week’s reading is Acts 19.

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Have Mercy On Me

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

In Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, we met a character who was certain he was doing enough and a character who begged for mercy. As the chapter continues, we meet a man who was certain he was doing enough and a man who begs for mercy. The rich ruler may have thought there was something lacking, but when he heard what it was, he went away sad (instead of justified). Then we meet the blind man who begs twice for mercy from Jesus. Can Luke be any clearer in the connections between Jesus’s parable and these actual men? When we read a contrived story, it may be hard to make real life applications. What would these situations look like in real life? We saw the Pharisee’s real life counterpart in the rich ruler. It looks like someone who thinks Jesus is a great teacher, but not great enough to actually obey when He says something really, really hard. Then we meet one of the counterparts with the tax collector in the blind man who cries out to Jesus despite the crowd trying to shush him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It looks like someone going against the crowd. It looks like enough faith to seek Jesus even when people are telling you to be quiet. And isn’t this another parallel to the children we read about after Jesus’s story? Just as folks tried to hinder the children, folks tried to hinder the blind man. Here is childlike humility and trust. His story in Luke ends by following Jesus and being a reason for the crowds to glorify God. And finally, if we can draw one more connection to earlier passages in Luke. Jesus says to the blind man, “Your faith has made you well.” This is the exact same phrase Jesus said to the sinful woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house in Luke 7:50 and to the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:48. Almost all miracle stories are salvation pictures. This is no exception. Without Jesus we are blind. But if we turn to Him for mercy no matter what the crowds say, we will find mercy, salvation, and justification. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 19.

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Like Children?

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

We find another one of those events in Jesus’s life that we have gotten so used to, we can miss how shocking it is. We love the passage about Jesus letting the little children come to Him. It is so sweet and cuddly. We think about how great it is that Jesus took toddlers into His arms. It is a Kodak moment custom made for a wonderful Hallmark movie. But are you catching how counter-cultural what Jesus says actually is? It wasn’t only counter-cultural in the ancient days, it is counter-cultural today. It isn’t counter-cultural because an adult is accepting children. It is counter-cultural because He is saying we need to b e like children to get into His kingdom. Who wants to do that? You want me to accept your kingdom like a child? You want me to just have faith in You and accept everything You say without question? You want me to be the subservient one who just does what I’m told because I don’t seem to know any better? Don’t we warn children to steer clear of people who say things like this? Can you understand why many mature, grown up adults would have a problem with this? The fact is if anyone else were saying what Jesus says here, it would be awful. If anyone else were saying this, we should run as fast and as far away as we could. But this is Jesus. This is God in the flesh. And we have a good God who has our best interests at heart, which He proved by dying on the cross for us. When He says it, it is amazing and comforting and incredible. I’m not saying we check our reason at the door. I’m not saying just blindly accept that Jesus is who He says He is. However, I am saying, having recognized that the evidence is in Jesus’s favor, if you are going to live your “Christian” life constantly second-guessing Him, wondering if His way really works or if you might have a better plan at least just in this one instance, then Jesus isn’t going to do you any good. There are very few people who are going to say, “Yep, I’m a little child. I’ll accept Jesus like that.” Most people will think that is infantile, naive, immature, and foolish. And most people will miss out on the kingdom. In fact, someone somewhere is reading this post and saying, “See, those Christians are so dumb. Not only are they weak, helpless sheep. They are naive, ignorant little children.” But it is sheep and children that Jesus saves, and I’m okay with that. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

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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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Who’s the Greatest?

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

The kingdom of Jesus is upside down. The competition is not for who is the greatest, but who is the least. And Jesus set the bar high. Or maybe I should say low. He is the greatest. He is the King. Not of a country, not of the world, not even of the universe. He is the king of all things in heaven and on earth, of the earthly realm and the heavenly places, of the present age and the age to come. He is the sovereign ruler. However, He stepped off His throne and into the world. He didn’t come as a king or ruler. Rather, he came as the seemingly illegitimate son of a backwoods carpenter of an oppressed people. He grew up in the most backwater of their towns. However, that wasn’t low enough. Though He was beloved by many, He was ultimately arrested as an insurrectionist and died the death of a criminal. He stooped that low to save you and me. Jesus is no leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He stepped up (or I should say down). He showed the way. He walked the path. We do not impress Him with our greatness. Let’s quit trying to. Rather, let us be impressed by Him, by His way of life, by His stooping service. Let us be so impressed we let Him imprint His manner of living on us. “Make me a servant, just like Your Son,” we sing. Today, let’s live it.

Next week’s reading is Luke 10.

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The First Step of Humility

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 6.

Do you, like I do, need more humility? We find the very first step of humility in today’s reading. Paul says if we disagree with the words of Jesus, we are puffed up. There it is. The first step of humility is to agree with Jesus. Anything else is arrogance. Anything else is an unhealthy craving for controversy. Anything else is lifting ourselves above our Lord. Of course, we all like to think we agree with Jesus. Let’s be careful to actually agree with Him and not just to agree with the culturally acceptable picture of Him. Let’s dig deep into humility. Let’s agree with Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Timothy 1.

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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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