Day 311 Bible Reading Plan (Zechariah 6-10)

Hidden motivations can't hide

Hidden Motivations Can’t Hide

God sees our hearts. He knows our thoughts. So it is hard to hide anything from Him, right? Ok, impossible. And yet we can have hidden motivations that we try to hide from others or that might even be hidden from ourselves. But hidden motivations cannot hide from God. Our motivations can become a snare to us if they are self-centered or in the wrong place. And our thoughts become our actions. God loves us too much to let us be driven by wrong motivations. He calls them out to free us to live for Him.

Bible Reading of the Day: Zechariah 6-10

We are continuing in the book of Zechariah today. Our reading starts off with one of the visions we discussed last week, but then here in Zech 6, there is an illusion to Christ. And Jesus is called the Branch.

  • Zechariah 6:12, “12 Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he[e] will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’”
  • Jeremiah 23:5-6, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

Hidden Motivations Can’t Hide—The Branch Reveals and Redeems

Bible Study Tools had some interesting things to say about this title or name for Jesus:

“The “Branch” is a name by which the Messiah goes in the Talmud F11, and in other Jewish writings. It is asked F12, what is the name of the King Messiah? it is answered, among others, his name is the “Branch”; as it is said, “behold the man whose name is the Branch; he shall grow up out of his place”: elsewhere F13 they speak of five letters doubled, which are the foundation of deliverance to certain persons, or point thereat.

The first four, they observe, were accomplished in the deliverance of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, of Isaac from the Philistines, of Jacob from Esau, and of the Israelites from Egypt; and the fifth, which is the first letter of “Tzemach”, the Branch, by it they say the holy blessed God will redeem Israel at the end of the four monarchies; as it is said, “behold the man whose name is the Branch”; Philo the Jew F14 interprets this passage of a divine Person, the Son of God, by whom no other than the Messiah is meant.”

Jesus is the Branch. He is the One Who will build the temple. He is the One Who will redeem His people. Not Joshua. Not Zerubbabel.

And Jesus’ redemption purifies our motives and cleanses our hearts. The Word of the LORD of Armies cleaned house by examining the motives of the hearts of the people.

Hidden Motivations Can’t Hide—Examine Yourself

Psalm 139 is a heart cry for God’s examination. Will we do the same? We need God to examine our motives so we can see our need of God.

Zechariah 7:5-6

“5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?”

I don’t know about y’all, but I would be pretty bummed if there were 7- years where my motives were in the wrong place. As I look over my life, I see where I drifted from a right motivation or just did things rotely, rather than with passion for God’s glory.

It can be tempting to think that the Old Testament don’t apply to us, but Christ fulfilled the law – He did not abolish it. And He did not lower the standard. He raised it. Our thoughts matter. Our motivations matter. And Christ sees and knows it all.

Hidden Motivations Can’t Hide—Thoughts Become Actions

Zechariah 7:8-14

8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.

13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’”

Our false motivations can lead to wrong actions. Let’s examine ourselves at the motivation level before our thoughts become actions that cause God pain.

Any hardship around us is living in a cursed world, but we also reap what we sow. Even to have a thought that is haughty or prideful, or to be jealous of others, or just the junk that can form in our mind, those are the motivations that God cares about. If we pay attention to our motivations, it will keep us from displeasing God.

God’s revelation of sin in the camp helps us to repent and turn to God.

Scripture of the Day: Zech 8:7

“7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”

God is our Savior. He saves us from sin and from ourselves. Exposed motivations help us to be free to live with and for God, Who is Our Redeemer.

Application

  • As you look at your life, I want you to consider what it is that you are doing for God’s Kingdom and I want you to ask yourself why you are doing it.
  • Think about where God has placed you. Surrender to His plans and release yours.
  • Align our purpose and motivations with God’s.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #310: Zechariah 6-10—Hidden Motivations Can’t Hide

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Zech 8:7

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Day 310 Bible Reading Plan (Ezra 1-5)

Nothing Like Coming Home

Nothing Like Coming Home

Friends, there’s nothing like coming home. Have you ever come through a tough season and you just long for home? Or simplicity—a time when things just did not seem so hard? I daresay that many of us feel like that this year, I know I do. The year started off with a diagnosis of Melanoma for me, then COVID hung over all of our hearts and minds all year long, then I finally got COVID and its complications. And now the election drama.

But even in the midst of uncertainties, there is one thing that is certain: God presides over it all. He is sovereign and good and nothing is wasted in His hands. He will use it all and use it for the good of those who love Him and for His glory. And even though on this side of eternity we might not ever find that peace we long for, we can still amazingly have peace in the midst. The hopes we have on this earth cannot compare to what awaits us in Heaven. Having this superior hope helps us to live joy-filled lives even when it seems there is no joy surrounding us.

Bible Reading of the Day: Ezra 1-5

I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas when my children come home. The joy is palpable. Just being present together.

Today we are starting a new book of the Bible —the book of Ezra. God’s people were coming home after having been exiled in Babylon for 70 years. Can you imagine? I am pretty sure it is hard for us to put ourselves in that place. 70 years. And being exiled was no picnic, either. Many likely died during such a lengthy exile. And as those who returned came home, they arrived to desolation. I am sure their joy at coming home was mixed with grief as they considered how to rebuild.

But God. The king’s heart is in His hands and ultimately, God is King. God worked through King Cyrus to accomplish His purposes and to give favor to His people as they sought to rebuild the temple.

Nothing Like Coming Home—God is in Charge

Look at this incredible background about King Cyrus that I found in gotquestions.org:

“Cyrus is a king mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible and is identified as Cyrus the Great (also Cyrus II or Cyrus the Elder) who reigned over Persia between 539—530 BC. This pagan king is important in Jewish history because it was under his rule that Jews were first allowed to return to Israel after 70 years of captivity.

In one of the most amazing prophecies of the Bible, the Lord revealed Cyrus’s decree to free the Jews to Isaiah. One hundred fifty years before Cyrus lived, the prophet calls him by name and gives details of Cyrus’ benevolence to the Jews: “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him . . . ‘I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me’” (Isaiah 45:1, 4; see also 41:2-25; 42:6). Evincing His sovereignty over all nations, God says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please” (Isaiah 44:28).”

Friends, does this Scripture give us hope today? The same God who was in control of a pagan king is in complete control of whoever wins this election. God’s use of Cyrus as a “shepherd” for His people illustrates the truth of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

Nothing Like Coming Home—God’s Plan Prevails

The question is, will we trust God, or give in to despair? Will we pray for God to move in the hearts of our leaders and the people of this nation? I am praying that the truth of this election will be made known. And I am confident that God is not surprised by any of this and He is working all things out.

Ezra 1:1-4

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing:

2 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Let every survivor, wherever he resides, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”

Nothing Like Coming Home—Rebuilding Together

Friends, we’ve got some rebuilding to do in our country. In our churches. In our homes. God is for us—who can be against us? Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy or we can give up because of fear off man and being intimidated. Now is the time for the church to arise. Don’t fear politics. God is in control—not man! God will move in our midst, but He wants to use us, too.

But, friends, we might have to lay down our expectations. The process will not be easy. It was not easy for the Jews, it will not be easy for us. There will be those who are against us. But the One Who is for us is greater than those who are against us.

Ezra 3:3

“They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.”

In the wake of the election, things are getting kind of ugly out there, huh? I have people saying some pretty unkind things about others who voted a different way. Don’t pay attention to this, friends.

Scripture of the Day: Ezra 4:4-5

“4 Then the people who were already in the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build. 5 They also bribed officials to act against them to frustrate their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.”

My goodness, the timing of these verses we are reading today! Corruption of officials, intimidation, and bribing. There are likely fraudulent votes in the election even now. But we don’t have to let that discourage us, friends!

God’s people had to fight for their right to build the Temple of God, and we will have to fight for righteous laws in the postmodern world that we live in today. If we are silent, friends, our rights will be stripped away and Christian persecution will rise. Don’t let anyone intimidate you from supporting truth and righteousness. Ever. We are the voice that God has sent into the world.

Let’s build, friends! God has called us to build His Kingdom.

How do We Build?

How Do We Build?—With Trust in God.

  • Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
  • Trusting God gives us access to this peace. Not trusting in man.

How Do We Build?—With Hope in God.

  • Hope in God not in man or politicians. This gives us peace.
  • We have great hope and an incredible future, friends!
  • Revelation 11:15 says, “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

How Do We Build?—With Prayer to God.

  • Keep praying, friends. We have a red hot mess in our day and age much like Ezra did. God is still LORD over it all. And He has asked us to pray.
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-4 “First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • What do we pray? We pray for the truth to come out. We pray for God’s will to be done. And we pray as the Holy Spirit leads. We pray for salvation of all people. That God would open eyes. That we would have a righteous nation. That revival will sweep across our land. We pray against the demonic forces and division, against the spirit of deception.

How Do We Build?—With His Word.

  • Friends, we have to be in God’s word to understand His purposes and will. And frankly, to be able to live this life down here in this fallen world.
  • Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Application

  • Don’t despair. Don’t ride the rollercoaster. Just trust in God.
  • Keep praying.
  • Keep building.
  • And Keep hoping.
  • Keep looking to God and not to man.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #310: Ezra 1-5—Nothing Like Coming Home

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Ezra 4:4-5

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Day 309 Bible Reading Plan (Deuteronomy 16-18)

The Purpose of Remembering

The Purpose of Remembering

It’s been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned or destined to repeat it. It has also been said that remembering is easy—it’s forgetting that’s hard. It is in remembering the horrors of the past that history might not be repeated. And it is also in remembering what God has done for us that we stay on track and keep our hearts right with God. The purpose of remembering is to keep us from being myopic and to help us be focused on living a righteous life informed by the past but not held back by it.

Bible Reading of the Day: Deuteronomy 16-18

This life is so full and busy that frankly, we can be a forgetful people. We can forget what God has done for us and we can also forget (conveniently) our mistakes. In today’s reading, Moses is calling on God’s people to remember what God has done for them.

The Purpose of Remembering—Memory Triggers

God is in the details. There were several different ways that Moses told them to trigger their memory.

  • Special Observance. They would celebrate Passover to remember God’s deliverance from Egypt. (Deuteronomy 16:1-3).
  • Special Observance #2. Festival of Weeks – to remember how much God had blessed them. And to remember that they were slaves.
  • And Special Observance #3: Festival of Shelters – thanking God for God’s blessing on the work of their hands.
  • Special Elements. They would eat certain food that was symbolic of their experience, employing the use of their senses to experience what they experienced during that deliverance.
  • Special Time. A set day and time that exactly matched when God delivered them.

The Purpose of Remembering—A Safeguard for Us

God’s people had tangible ways to remember what God had done on their behalf. But God also placed safeguards to help them to remember what mattered most.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

“4 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, take possession of it, live in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations around me,’ 15 you are to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. Appoint a king from your brothers. You are not to set a foreigner over you, or one who is not of your people. 16 However, he must not acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are never to go back that way again.’ 17 He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself.

The Purpose of Remembering—Reading God’s Word Daily

18 When he is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes. 20 Then his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen, he will not turn from this command to the right or the left, and he and his sons will continue reigning many years in Israel.”

Application

  • Don’t let materialism cause you to forget what matters most.
  • Obey God’s commands so we walk in a manner worthy.
  • Be steadfast in God’s word so we daily remember Him in our comings and goings.
  • Don’t go back to the past. God already redeemed that.
  • As we seek to place things and best practices in our lives to help us remember, Our remembrances can become rote and religious when we don’t engage the mind to remember the point of it all.
  • We were made for God’s glory, not ours.
  • Let’s remember daily what Christ did on our behalf so we walk faithfully.

Scripture of the Day: Deuteronomy 18: 9, 13

Deuteronomy 18:9, 13

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not imitate the detestable customs of those nations.  13 You must be blameless before the Lord your God.”

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #308: Deuteronomy 16-18—The Purpose of Remembering

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Deuteronomy 18:9, 13

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Day 308 Bible Reading Plan (James 4-5)

Make your vote Matter

Make Your Vote Matter

Well, you guys, it is election day! Have you voted yet? We each play a part in this world and God has sent us to be in the world but not of it. We might feel like our little vote or even our very presence does not affect the world much, but friend, God would not tell us to go and reach the world if our presence wasn’t significant. One of the greatest influences we have might be one of the greatest missed opportunities. God has a purpose for you in this world. Your voice is needed, friend. And today on election day, your vote impacts legislation that can save lives and change the course of history. You Make Your Vote Matter most when it aligns with Scripture.

Bible Reading of the Day: James 4-5

We are reading from and finishing the book of James today, James 4-5. James has some advice we can follow to guide us in how we relate to the world.

It is a fine line we walk in this world of trying to reach the world without being corrupted by it. The heart of man is proud and self-seeking. The world and its inhabitants pursue pleasure and comfort. How do we reach this world for Christ without compromising our faith? How do we represent Christ in an election? By examining ourselves regularly so we stay on mission.

Make Your Vote Matter – #1 Check our motives.

James 4:3, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

We need to lay down our desires and pick up God’s. We want His will to be done on the earth, not ours. His standards are our goal. God’s will for the world is revealed in His word. Does the platform you are voting for support and align with biblical principles?

Make Your Vote Matter – #2 Check for Idolatry and Adultery.

James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.”

We were not called to fit into the world, but to reach the world. This will not make us popular, but friendship and acceptance from the world is spiritual adultery.

Make Your Vote Matter – #3 Check for Pride.

James 4:6, “But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Sometimes we can get offended and forget that our goal is not to be politically correct or to have man’s adoration. We are called to serve and consider others as more important than ourselves. This does not come naturally, but God has called us to represent Him and no one served more sacrificially than Jesus. This means we lay down our agenda and pick up God’s.

Make Your Vote Matter – #4 Check Your Allegiance.

James 4:7, “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Before I was ever an American, God made me. We get to live in this land, but our greatest calling is that we get to influence this world with the Gospel. This means my vote submits to God’s standards and righteousness. My life surrenders to His Lordship, including my vote and my way of life.

Make Your Vote Matter – #5 Check Your Relationship with God—Be Near to God.

James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

We cannot represent God will to this world if we have not spent time with Him. As we read His word and pray, He will lead us to how we should live, and that includes voting.

Make Your Vote Matter – #6 Check Your Judgement of Others

James 4:11-12, “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Don’t judge someone who votes or believes differently than you. I always ask myself, how is it that I can see and understand this great salvation? Just God’s mercy. Sometimes we hinder others from seeing by responding pridefully and judging them. But the only reason we understand anything is just God’s kindness. We can reach others with humility, gentleness and truth. The goal is redemption, not proving someone wrong. And maybe we still have much to learn ourselves.

Make Your Vote Matter – #7 Check Your Actions.

James 4:17, “Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

At the end of the day, what did we DO? I know I can make excuses for myself and rationalize away why I did not do what I should have. But intentions will not save us nor will they be acceptable in God’s sight if we do not act on what we know is right.

Make Your Vote Matter – #8 Check Your Attitude

Comfort & Entitlement

James 5:5, “You have lived luxuriously on the earth and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”

Complaining – need gratitude

James 5:9, “Brothers and sisters, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. Look, the judge stands at the door!”

Make Your Vote Matter – #9 Check Your Commitment

James 5:12, “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “yes” mean “yes,” and your “no” mean “no,” so that you won’t fall under judgment.”

We need to be committed to God’s will and be bold for Jesus. Don’t buy the lie that we have to be quiet if we hold a conservative view. Our view is not political, it is biblical!

Make Your Vote Matter – #10 Check Your Prayer Life

James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”

The prayers of a righteous man are effective, friends. Let’s pray that God gives us a victory today in the election. What is that victory? That a platform that supports  righteous legislation wins – clearly and  by a landslide!!!

Scripture of the Day: James 4:17

“So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.”

Application

  • We need to do what is right. To not do what is right is sin.
  • Vote in accordance with what God’s Word says.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #308: James 4-6—Title

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Text

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Day 306-307 Bible Reading Plan (Eccl. 3-4 & Acts 11-12)

It's About Time

It’s About Time

The beginning of Daylight Savings Time yesterday is a vivid reminder that we want to make the most of our time. Our lives are so jam-packed and busy we struggle with time—feeling mastered by it and trying to get our “to do” list done. God is outside this space and time and yet He sovereignly rules over it. It’s about time that our lives revolve. And the times we live in impact how we use the time we have been given. We live in a polarized culture. How can we be agents for God in these times, redeeming each day to share of God’s salvation?

Bible Reading of the Day: Ecclesiastes 3-4 and Acts 11-12

The thing about time is that it limits our activity. We can feel like there is never enough time and yet God’s word says there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Or we can feel discouraged if we do not see a return on our investment of time (Eccl. 3:9).

Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 (NLT), “9 What do people really get for all their hard work (struggles – CSB)? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

It’s About Time—Prioritizing

There is time for what needs to be done but sometimes we have to leave some things undone. And sometimes our goals with time might not be God’s.

Our time is not ours, but God’s. It is on loan to us to see how we will steward it.

Psalm 90:12 reminded us several weeks back that the goal of living is to gain wisdom, draw near to God and number our days well.

So how do we walk in wisdom in a foolish age? Humanism and vain philosophies infiltrate and influence others more than the gospel, or so it seems.

We have an election tomorrow and the reading today from Acts 11-12 is a snapshot of how the early church used the time they were given and the effect that political struggles of that time period had on them.

It’s About Time—Doing What Matters Most

Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Cyrpus and Cerene of the church at Antioch were busy doing the work of God in a politically charged society where Christians were persecuted.

The fruit from their labor was evident.

Acts 11:21-24

“21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord.”

In the midst of this incredible fruit were challenges.

Acts 12:1-5

“About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, 2 and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. 3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying fervently to God for him.”

It’s About Time—For Such a Time as This

Friends, we will not be embraced by our culture for the faith we uphold. But for such a time as this, we must stand on the foundation of the Gospel. We need to care more for people’s souls than how they think or who they vote for, but we also must do our civic duty to vote for one who will uphold righteous laws, not rights that are contrary to God’s word.

My affiliation is with Jesus, not a political party. But my vote will be influenced by my faith and the policies each political party embraces.

In Acts 12:20-23, God intervenes into the political

“Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Together they presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

The people were asking for peace from a wicked politician. Friends, God intervened anyway. God is our peace. We can have peace no matter what the election results are tomorrow in Christ.

Scripture of the Day: Acts 12:24

“But the word of God spread and multiplied.”

This “but” comes right after the death of Herod and persecution for believers. God’s will and word will triumph.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Application

  • Let’s not use division as an excuse not to multiply.
  • Share Christ in season and out of season.
  • May our speech be seasoned with God’s word.
  • My affiliation is with Jesus, not a political party. But my vote will be influenced by my faith and the policies each political party embraces.
  • Friends, I wish our media was color blind. I wish we all were. The media is trying to stir up controversy, and to be sure there are problems in our culture. There are sins such as racism, but people can use those very sins for their own political purposes, making an election more politically charged.
  • Please pray HARD and then vote. Lay down your agenda and other political agendas and pick up the cross. Which policies line up with God’s word?
  • May we bravely represent Christ as we vote.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #306-7: Eccl. 3-4 and Acts 11-12—It’s About Time

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Acts 12:24

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Day 305 Bible Reading Plan

Looking for Favor

Looking for Favor

Do you ever feel like it is always someone else who is the winner? You put your best effort in and someone else is chosen? This desire for favor is within us, a craving for acceptance and significance. We all want to be the one chosen and appreciated. But the irony is, that while we are looking for favor, in Christ, we already have it, yet many still strive blindly for favor that looks different than what they have been given.

Maybe you feel like the 1% of the population where Murphy’s Law resides. That other shoe is about to drop. And you just want some relief. I get it, believe me. Join me for some sweet relief today from the psalmist as he points us to the favor of God that never fails is.

Bible Reading of the Day: Psalm 123-125

Psalm 123

The Psalmist is looking for God’s favor. Notice that the eyes are the focus in this Psalm. He is actively choosing to lift his eyes to God, and setting his eyes on the LORD.

He recognizes that his help comes from God and no one or nothing else. And he admits his problems to God and cries out. He does not try to placate his troubles or go elsewhere for rescue.

Psalm 123:1-4

“I lift my eyes to you, the one enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the Lord our God until he shows us favor. 3 Show us favor, Lord, show us favor, for we’ve had more than enough contempt. 4 We’ve had more than enough scorn from the arrogant and contempt from the proud.”

The Psalmist asks for favor and reveals his hardship to God. But the presence of hardship does not mean the absence of God.

Looking for Favor—Recognizing God’s Favor in Our Lives

Psalm 124

We often think about our struggles in the context of when will God deliver us from them, but perhaps we do not consider what God has already spared us from. This is the heart of Psalm 124.

The “if . . . then” statement of the psalmist reveals that the favor of God is the difference in the equation of life.

The psalmist shifts from looking to and on God to recognizing that God was already there. His favor was already there.

1 “If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—2 if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, 3 then they would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger against us. 4 Then the water would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; 5 the raging water would have swept over us. 6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Looking for Favor—Trusting in God at All Times

Psalm 125

Our stability hinges on what we are trusting in. Are we trusting in favor as our rescue, or God? Favor on this earth is temporary, like popularity in a fickle world. But the favor of God lasts forever.

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever. 2 The mountains surround Jerusalem and the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous will not apply their hands to injustice. 4 Do what is good, Lord, to the good, to those whose hearts are upright. 5 But as for those who turn aside to crooked ways, the Lord will banish them with the evildoers. Peace be with Israel.”

Scripture of the Day: Psalm 125: 1-2

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever. 2 The mountains surround Jerusalem and the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.”

Friends, we are surrounded by God’s favor. So much so. But the world around us is full of troubles and we are affected by that.

Application

  • Don’t look for a rescue or favor from man or anywhere in this world.
  • May we recognize the favor of God in our lives and choose to be grateful when life is hard.
  • When we feel surrounded by troubles, may we remember that God surrounds us and His favor is enough.
  • The presence of hardship does not mean the absence of God.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #304: Psalm 123-125—Looking for Favor

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Psalm 125:1-2

Audio: https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/audio/csb/Ps.123

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Day 304 Bible Reading Plan

No blaming your parents

No Blaming Your Parents

There’s a trend in human nature to blame those who went before us. And sometimes our predecessors can make it harder on us, for sure. But at the end of the day, God’s grace is there to help us rise above our past and release its residue of pain. There is no blaming your parents when the example they set – good or bad – is something we can learn from. And more than that—when the Holy Spirit can transform and enable us to rise above any past.

Bible Reading of the Day: Zechariah 1-5

We are reading the book of Zechariah today so we always provide a little background information. This is from my study Bible:

“Zechariah is the eleventh of the Minor Prophets. Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet. The book of Zechariah largely concerns the temple and priesthood and the purification of the people. Zechariah’s grandfather Iddo was a priest who returned from exile with Zerubbabel (Neh. 12:4), making it likely that Zechariah was Haggai’s younger colleague. Whereas Haggai’s focus was on the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of the sacrificial system, Zechariah’s focus was on the people’s spiritual transformation” (Colson, Chuck, Norm Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Josh McDowell, Albert Mohler, Ravi Zacharias, J. P. Moreland, and Phil Johnson. The Apologetics Study Bible. B&H Publishing Group, 2007).

Zechariah stressed the presence of the LORD with His people (1:16, 9:9-10; 14:4,9) and also the necessity to obey the LORD, especially in matters of justice, mercy, compassion, and truthfulness.

No Blaming Your Parents—Return to the LORD of Armies

“Zechariah begins his book with a strong call for Israel to repent (1:1-6). This theme of repentance is developed more fully through the subsequent eight visions. In general, these visions speak of God’s plans for Israel and especially for Jerusalem and the temple. Another major theme is the coming of the future Messiah. The prophet also had a mission of encouraging the post-exilic Jews to continue their work to rebuild the temple.” (Gotquestions.org)

Zechariah 1:1-6

“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo: 2 “The LORD was extremely angry with your ancestors. 3 So tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD of Armies says: Return to me—this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies—and I will return to you, says the LORD of Armies.

No Blaming Your Parents—Their Pattern Does Not Have to Be Ours

4 Do not be like your ancestors; the earlier prophets proclaimed to them: This is what the LORD of Armies says: Turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they did not listen or pay attention to me—this is the LORD’s declaration. 5 Where are your ancestors now? And do the prophets live forever? 6 But didn’t my words and my statutes that I commanded my servants the prophets overtake your ancestors?’” So the people repented and said, “As the LORD of Armies decided to deal with us for our ways and our deeds, so he has dealt with us.”

Notice the name of God that is repeated five times in these opening verses – the LORD of Armies. LORD – He is in relationship with His people, and He is LORD over all the Heavenly host and all creation.

We have to return in order for the LORD to return to us. Repenting is not just being sorry it is turning from our ways. Even ingrained ways that might have been sins passed down as part of the family tradition.

The Hope of Restoration Via Visions

From Gotquestions.org

In Zechariah 1:7–6:8, the prophet Zechariah receives eight visions in one busy night:

  1. The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17)
  2. The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21)
  3. The surveyor (2:1-13)
  4. The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10)
  5. The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14)
  6. The flying scroll (5:1-4)
  7. The woman in the basket (5:5-11)
  8. The four chariots (6:1-8)

Visions of Restoration

  1. The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17): Zechariah sees a man and horses among the trees. The man explains that they had gone throughout the whole earth and found peace. An angel then tells the prophet that God still loved Israel and would restore Jerusalem. Verse 17 summarizes: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”

    2. The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21): Zechariah is shown four horns and four craftsmen. The angel tells him that the horns are four kingdoms that opposed Israel (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia) and the craftsmen are coming to “throw down these horns”; i.e., God would defeat Israel’s enemies.

    3. The surveyor (2:1-13): Zechariah sees a man holding a measuring line. When the prophet asks the man where he is going, the man says he is going to measure the city of Jerusalem. This vision represents God’s promise that Jerusalem will be expanded and its people will one day live in safety as the Lord judges Israel’s enemies.

Visions of Blessing


4. The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10): Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing in filthy clothes; he is before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan stands to the side. Satan is rebuked, and Joshua is given rich, clean clothes. God Himself explains the vision: Joshua will be blessed in his service to the Lord. The vision is also symbolic of Israel’s restoration as God’s “priestly” nation (cf. Exodus 19:6). This vision of Joshua ends with a prediction of the ultimate high priest—the coming Messiah, symbolized by a Branch and an all-seeing Stone.

5. The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14): An angel shows Zechariah a golden lampstand being fed oil from two olive trees. The two olive trees are symbolic of Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest. The golden lampstand represents the temple and temple-worshiping community. God was making the point that He would once again work through His people to lay the foundation of the temple and finish the work.

Visions of Obedience


6. The flying scroll (5:1-4): Zechariah sees a large scroll, written on both sides, flying over the whole land. This vision speaks of God’s judgment upon those who disobeyed His law.

7. The woman in the basket (5:5-11): The angel shows the prophet a basket that could hold an ephah (three-fifths of a bushel). On the basket is a lead cover. The angel opens the basket to reveal a woman sitting inside. The angel says, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land,” and seals the basket again with the heavy lid. Two other women appear with stork-like wings; they pick up the basket and carry it to Babylon. This strange vision pictures suppressed wickedness to be banished to Babylon where it would eventually be freed (cf. Revelation 17).

Visions of Judgement


8. The four chariots (6:1-8): Zechariah sees four horses of different colors pulling four chariots. They quickly run through the entire earth, with the result that God’s Spirit has “rest.” This vision represents a judgment upon the enemies of Israel. After the judgment, God’s wrath will be appeased, and “rest” ensues. This final vision brings the series of visions full circle: the first vision had pictured these horses at the end of their mission. A similar vision of judgment, also using the imagery of horses, is found in Revelation 6:1-8.

The two middle visions, numbers 4 and 5, emphasize God’s blessing. As Israel returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple, they will find God’s favor. The work will be accomplished, “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (4:6).

No Blaming Your Parents—Restoration is Possible!

The Book of Zechariah teaches that salvation may be obtained by all. The last chapter depicts peoples from all over the world coming to worship God, who desires that all people follow Him. This is not the doctrine of universalism, i.e., that all people would be saved because it is God’s nature to save. Rather, the book teaches that God desires that all people worship Him and accepts those who do, regardless of their national or political expressions.

Finally, Zechariah preached that God is sovereign over this world, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding. His visions of the future indicate that God sees all that will happen. The depictions of God’s intervention in the world teach that ultimately He will bring human events to the end He chooses. He does not eliminate the individual’s freedom to follow God or rebel, but holds people responsible for the choices they make. In the last chapter, even the forces of nature respond to God’s control.

Scripture of the Day: Zechariah 4:6

“So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies.”

God was not telling Zechariah the work he had to do and then expecting Zechariah to get ‘er done on his own. The Spirit is how we do life now. We cannot do things in our own strength—we fail if we do.

Application

  • No matter what our past, God holds our future.
  • No matter what our story is, it’s not over yet and God knows the end.
  • God will complete the work by His Spirit.
  • Don’t blame your parents or circumstances. Life is hard, but by His Spirit and the blood of Christ, we are overcomers.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #304: Zechariah 1:5—No Blaming Your Parents

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Zechariah 4:6

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Day 303 Bible Reading Plan

How to Clean House

How to Clean House

We all know the American motivation for cleaning up, right? Company’s coming. But shoving things in the closet will come back to haunt us later. It’s the deep clean that happens when we finally set aside time to do so that truly gets the job done. But when the job is daunting, we tend to avoid it. Everybody ought to know how to clean house. But I’m not talking about literal house cleaning. There is a spiritual cleansing that is necessary, too. Don’t be afraid to “clean house” in your life and church, friend. We tend to want to set it and forget it, right? But the problem is we are not static. The natural tendency is to grow complacent and to drift by degrees.

Bible Reading of the Day: 2 Chronicles 31-36

We are finishing the book of 2 Chronicles today and what an end! Hezekiah is cleaning house and getting things done.

2 Chronicles 31:2-4

“2 Hezekiah reestablished the divisions of the priests and Levites for the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, for ministry, for giving thanks, and for praise in the gates of the camp of the Lord, each division corresponding to his service among the priests and Levites. 3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the regular morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings of the Sabbaths, of the New Moons, and of the appointed feasts, as written in the law of the Lord. 4 He told the people who lived in Jerusalem to give a contribution for the priests and Levites so that they could devote their energy to the law of the Lord.”

Hezekiah did not just go with status quo. He was a leader who was willing to go against the tide and set a right standard. And he also applied this standard to himself. There is nothing better than a leader who lives out what he expects of others.

How to Clean House—Inspire Others By Living What You Believe

Sometimes pastors and churches can catch flack for asking church members to contribute, though. People can say all the church wants is money. This is not so. A few corrupt tele-evangelists does not mean that God’s church is greedy. Ministry costs and laborers are worthy of compensation so they can be devoted to God’s work. Notice in verse 4, that the leaders in the church could devote their energy to the law of the Lord because of the generosity of God’s people.

It is contagious when others around us serve and are faithful. Well, sometimes when we are doing major house cleaning, people hide at our house to get out of chores. But there is positive energy that comes from people serving and giving faithfully. The leaders exemplified it and the people followed.

Cleaning House—The People’s Contribution

2 Chronicles 31:6-10

“6 As for the Israelites and Judahites who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought a tenth of the herds and flocks, and a tenth of the dedicated things that were consecrated to the Lord their God. They gathered them into large piles. 7 In the third month they began building up the piles, and they finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and viewed the piles, they blessed the Lord and his people Israel.

9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the piles. 10 The chief priest Azariah, of the household of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began bringing the offering to the Lord’s temple, we have been eating and are satisfied and there is plenty left over because the Lord has blessed his people; this abundance is what is left over.”

Our faithfulness in giving affects ministry. And when leaders are diligent to do things God’s way, the church and leadership are blessed. I love Hezekiah’s heart. He feared and loved God and was diligent to do what God said.

How to Clean House—Being Diligent

2 Chronicles 31:20-21

“20 Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah. He did what was good and upright and true before the Lord his God. 21 He was diligent in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple, in the instruction and the commands, in order to seek his God, and he prospered.”

This is such a wonderful moment. I can even hear the orchestral music in the background. But as much as I love Hezekiah’s heart, he also made mistakes. Showing the Assyrians all his riches was not a good idea. And led to attack from King Sennaccherib.

2 Chronicles 32:1

“After Hezekiah’s faithful deeds, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.”

Good times, right? Just when everything is going well, a big threat comes. But look at Hezekiah’s response, which is the Scripture of the day.

Scripture of the Day: 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

“6 He set military commanders over the people and gathered the people in the square of the city gate. Then he encouraged them, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 He has only human strength, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” So the people relied on the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.”

King Hezekiah truly lived out his faith. He relied on God. Despite Sennacherib’s insults, mocking and undermining of his faith, Hezekiah dug in deeper and cried out to God. And God answered.

How to Clean House—Passing the Torch Down

2 Chronicles 32:18

“18 Then they called out loudly in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them in order that he might capture the city. 19 They spoke against the God of Jerusalem like they had spoken against the gods of the peoples of the earth, which were made by human hands.

20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven, 21 and the Lord sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned in disgrace to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children struck him down with the sword.”

Hezekiah walked closely with the LORD. Through illness, battles, through all of life, but his son, Manasseh didn’t. God used Assyria again to bring Manasseh to repentance. Josiah became king after him and found the book of the Law and also cleaned house like Hezekiah did. The question is, will we live our life faithfully so those who come behind us will do the same? Do we need to clean house today, friends?

Application

  • God is faithful to speak. May we be faithful to listen and apply His word to our lives.
  • Cleaning house is a continual effort in our lives.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #302: 2 Chronicles 31-36—How to Clean House

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: 2 Chronicles 32:6-8

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Day 302 Bible Reading Plan

The Test of Faith

The Test of Faith

Will you pass the test? No one likes tests, right? Ok, that is an assumption on my part, but suffice it to say that tests for most people are stress-inducing. The SAT test, in particular, was a source of stress in our household. One moment in time to prove yourself. We can wonder why we have to test ourselves. But there is a test that we all must go through. The test of faith. There is no fence walking there. We are either in the faith or we are not. And we will bear consequences for that choice. It is pass/fail. No in-between.

The Test of Faith—Deuteronomy 13-15

Tests prove our readiness and mastery of the content being presented. Deuteronomy 13 opens up today with a test that God has for His people. How would you answer these questions:

  • Do you love God?
  • Do you follow Him?
  • And do you fear Him?
  • Do you keep His commands?
  • Do you listen to Him?
  • And do you worship Him?
  • Are you faithful to Him?

We all in our hearts want to answer yes to these questions, and we all know the Sunday school answer to any question, right? It’s Jesus!

But the proof is shown when we are tested. And sometimes we are not aware that we have a test coming.

The Test of Faith—It’s Test time!

Have you ever forgotten about a test or had to cram for a test? I remember one time at the University of Maryland when I was late for a test. And on another time, I did not know there was a test and was highlighting the book in yellow right before I had to take it. I passed those tests due in part to the lifestyle of preparation I had before those tests.

For the Israelites, and sometimes for us, the tests can be tricky. Would they be able to discern if a prophet were trying to lead them astray? Or if their own loved ones tried to? Or if the surrounding culture was influencing them away from God? These were the measures used to test their hearts and prove their faith.

The Test of Faith—Do You Love Me?

Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, 2 and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let’s follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let’s worship them,’ 3 do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. 4 You must follow the Lord your God and fear him. You must keep his commands and listen to him; you must worship him and remain faithful to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”

The Test of Faith—Test #1—A Religious Leader

The chief test here was a prophet – so someone who represented God – was trying to lead God’s people away from God. Y’all, we have to be like the Bereans – are we testing what we hear in the pulpit? Not to beat up the pastor, but to make sure we are walking in truth. We should test what we hear with the word of God. Luke applauded the Bereans for doing so.

Acts 17:11

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

The test was whether or not they really loved God. The temptation was whether they would follow the leader’s advice to follow other gods or follow God. And the proof of that love was shown in their actions.

Pastors mean well but they aren’t perfect and sometimes they make mistakes, too. There is a struggle between being culturally sensitive and not being biblically sensitive. We must be discerning like the Bereans.

The Test of Faith—Our Response When Tested

  • We must follow Him . . . before we ever follow man.
  • We must fear Him . . . more than we fear man.
  • And we must keep His commands . . . more than trying to fit in because we belong to Jesus.
  • We must listen to Him . . . not listen to all the different opinions and philosophies of this world.
  • We must worship Him . . . and not resort to idolatry.
  • And we must be faithful to Him . . . and after all, we are talking about the test of faith – being faithful.

The Test of Faith—Test #2—Loved Ones

There were other people who would try to turn God’s people from following Him. After the prophet was those in our inner circle. Our family and loved ones.

Deuteronomy 13:6-9

“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let’s go and worship other gods’—which neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other— 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity, and do not spare him or shield him. 9 Instead, you must kill him. Your hand is to be the first against him to put him to death, and then the hands of all the people.”

Notice these were people who were close to them. And their temptation was to get God’s people to not just follow other gods, but to go and worship them. Worship happens when we prioritize something or someone above all else. Worship is not always so obvious.

We need to not check our brain at the door. We need to be in God’s word so we can discern.

The Test of Faith—Um, Kill Those Who tempt Us Away From God?

Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. We are not supposed to murder someone if they try to tempt us away from following God.

From gotquestions.org

“The Old Testament law commanded the death penalty for various acts: murder (Exodus 21:12), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), and several other crimes. However, God often showed mercy when the death penalty was due. David committed adultery and murder, yet God did not demand his life be taken (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 14-17; 2 Samuel 12:13). Ultimately, every sin we commit should result in the death penalty because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, God demonstrates His love for us in not condemning us (Romans 5:8).

The Test of Faith—Grace When We Fail

When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and asked Him if she should be stoned, Jesus replied, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). This should not be used to indicate that Jesus rejected capital punishment in all instances. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

God is the One who instituted capital punishment: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Jesus would support capital punishment in some instances. Jesus also demonstrated grace when capital punishment was due (John 8:1-11). 

But perhaps we see the seriousness of the sin of someone trying to influence someone away from faith in God. And friends, this happens every day, 24/7. The influences surrounding us and our children trying to pull us away from God are ridiculous. These influences are tests that can be overcome by God’s word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and being in community with godly, like-minded people.

But how do we correct others? In humility and grace . . . with truth without compromise.

The Test of Faith—Test #3—The Surrounding Culture

If it isn’t someone in the church or a family member trying to lead you astray, perhaps it is the culture around you.

Deuteronomy 13:12-15

12 “If you hear it said about one of your cities the Lord your God is giving you to live in, 13 that wicked men have sprung up among you, led the inhabitants of their city astray, and said, ‘Let’s go and worship other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 you are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable act has been done among you, 15 you must strike down the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Completely destroy everyone in it as well as its livestock with the sword.”

Notice that we are not to be apathetic and just throw in the towel. No. We are to do something about it. We are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. And we need to examine our culture through a biblical lens. This will mean we might get persecuted. But this, too, is the test of faith that proves whether our faith is genuine or not.

The Test of Faith—Accessing the Blessing

We all want to get an “A” on a test, right? Ok, an “A+”. We don’t want to barely pass. On a recent Hebrew final exam, I literally wept during the test. It was so hard. I had been hospitalized during the final weeks of the class and just struggled to get final assignments in. My family rolled their eyeballs because I did get an A+ on that test and in that class, but it was a hard-fought A+, y’all.

The goal for an A+ is not for our glory, but God’s. We give our best because He deserves it. And when our faith is tested and proven genuine, we arrive at a place of blessing. Because God is so good. He sets the standard of righteousness and then fulfills it on our behalf. Not so we can coast through this life, but so we can have strength and grace to rise to the tests this life presents.

The Test of Faith—Other Tests of Obedience

The chief struggle for us all and for God’s people back then was idolatry. Faithlessness. This is why our faith needed to be tested so we would grow and not shrink back. Deuteronomy 14 reminds us to avoid practices that are forbidden by God. Don’t follow the culture. Lead it to God. The food practices aren’t as applicable to us today, but there are principles found within this text. We see the words reiterated in Deuteronomy 14:2 and 14:21:

“2 For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

The Test of Faith—Be Holy As He is Holy

God’s holiness does not change with the influences of the world, family, or religion. We need to be steadfast. Faithful. Faithful in the tithe and in generosity to those in need mentioned in chapters 14 and 15. And faithful in purity and holiness. Finally, we need to be faithful to submit to God rather than yielding to ungodly influences. And look at the promise that is ours if we do Deuteronomy 15:5, “5 if only you obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today . . .”

Scripture of the Day: Deuteronomy 15:6 (NLT)

“The LORD your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

Application

  • Study God’s word to be ready for the tests this life brings.
  • Examine the influences in your life through God’s word.
  • Follow God, not man.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #302: Deuteronomy 13-15—Test of Faith

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: Deuteronomy 13-15

Audio: https://classic.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/esv/Deut.13

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Day 301 Bible Reading Plan

Joy is Chosen

Joy does not just happen. It is something we get to decide whether or not we experience it. And true joy can occur in hard or good times. Joy is chosen. And when it is, there is nothing that can steal our joy.

Bible Reading of the Day: James 1-3

This book was written by the half-brother of Jesus. The Easy English Bible commentary describes the main message of the book of James in this way:

“A large number of the Christians had left Jerusalem and had gone to live in other countries. But the apostles and leaders of the church did not go. So, these Christians no longer had the day-to-day contact with their leaders. James wrote to help them. He wrote to encourage them to live as Christians should, in the places where they now lived.

What Christians believe must affect what they do. That is the main subject of his letter. He shows how they should apply their trust in God to the problems that they have. Real faith must be active. That is the key to what he wrote. Faith that does nothing is not real faith. So he says that faith without works is dead.”

Joy is Chosen

James 1:2-4 CSB

“2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

Notice the words, “Great joy”. This joy was massive. And friends, we need joy to walk out this life of faith. James is writing about the need for faith with works and it is trials that can cause us to get sidetracked. But if we learn how to handle trials with joy, we can overcome and live out this message faithfully. Joy is Chosen. And it can be chosen at all times.

The enemy works to discourage us and sometimes we believe the lie that we are forgotten when God allows suffering in our lives. We get distracted and just want the absence of troubles, but here James is challenging us to rise above our pain and to recognize the blessings of trials. That sounds like an oxymoron, right? Blessings in trials? Yes.

Joy is Chosen—Gratitude

Gratitude cultivates joy. What are some blessings that God has shown you in some of the hard places in your life?

In the hospital recently, God filled me with joy as I considered the gift of life. And the character God was imparting to me and the revelations He showed in the midst are treasures.

Joy is Chosen—In the Daily

James is chock-full of practical tips to help us find joy in our daily lives.

James 1:5 – We can have wisdom for the asking.

“5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.”

Ecclesiastes 8:1 (NIV)

“Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.”

James reminds us to do what we say we believe.

James 1:22

“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

James 2:12

“12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom.”

James 2:22

“22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete.”

When we are hearers and doers, we have joy. Being duplicitous only leads to conflict, confusion, and depression.

Joy is Chosen—Joy in Mercy

James 2:13

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Friends, our Savior chooses to sit on a seat of mercy when we deserve damnation. If this does not produce joy, God help us. This life is not the end goal.

Scripture of the Day: James 3:13

“Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.”

Application

Friends, let’s live out God’s word. Living out what God has shown us gives us great joy. God’s ways are best. Living in sin discourages us and defeats us and James mentions several sins – favoritism, gossip, a duplicitous faith, pride, cursing, that keep us burden and joyless. Christ gave His life for us. Let’s live faithfully for Him.

𝗝𝗼𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗕𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁 12 𝗽𝗺 𝗘𝗧.

Day #301: James 1-3—Joy is Chosen

𝒱𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒟𝒶𝓎: James 3:13

Audio: https://classic.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/esv/Acts.9

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