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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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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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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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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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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Who Will Respond to the Gospel?

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

Do you realize Jesus is not really talking about feasts and banquets? He is talking about feasting on the gospel. He is talking about banqueting at His table of salvation. And through this story, He explains the only people who will actually respond. Folks who think they can feed themselves if they miss out on the proposed banquet usually back out. In the story, these are the guys who have enough money to buy a field, purchase oxen to plow his fields, pay the bride price in order to get married. However, the folks who understand they won’t eat apart from the proposed banquet never come up with excuses. They show up no matter how much it costs them to get there or how hard it is. They are desperate to eat and they know this is the only option they have because they can’t get it done themselves. The sad part is, regarding God’s proposed banquet, no matter what anyone thinks, there is only one place they can eat. No one can actually feed themselves. But it is only those who realize it who will heed the gospel invitation no matter what it costs; everyone else will come up with excuses.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 15.

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The True Power

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

What is the great divide between those saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ and those not? An understanding about the true power behind the gospel. The rich will be sent away empty. The proud will be scattered. The mighty will be be brought down. However, the humble will be exalted. Those who realize the true power in the gospel is God will be saved. Those who keep thinking somehow we will pull off something by our own power will be disappointed. I do not have to be ashamed of my humble estate because my God is powerful, mighty, and awesome. He will lift me up. However, that will only happen if I recognize how much lifting I really need. Not because He can’t lift me up, but because as long as I think I can pull myself up, I will continue to keep Him at arm’s length and swat His lifting arm away. He will not exalt me against my will. This is the beginning of the gospel, the good news for us. God is the power. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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