|October 2010 Daily Devotion Archive|
Being Bitter, Part 1 of 2
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. - Ephesians 4:31
Several of these ideas have already been covered in recent weeks as we have worked our way through the mountain of wisdom that can be found in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. (This is one of fourteen devotionals from just that chapter.) Today, I would like to focus on bitterness. Every so often you encounter a person who simply seems to be overcome with bitterness over something that has happened. People can become bitter for a variety of reasons. Maybe someone mistreated them, maybe they lost a job in a way that seems unfair, or perhaps it's something far worse like the death of a child or spouse. But regardless of the reason for that bitterness, the Bible is quite clear that we should not let it overtake us. Bitterness is dangerous because it has a way of completely taking control of a person, consuming the person from the inside out. It can cause a person to unfairly mistreat others, and it certainly strains his or her relationship with God.
The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.
He who earnestly seeks good finds favor,
But trouble will come to him who seeks evil.
- Proverbs 11:3, 27
Integrity is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to find in our society. A lot like the world was in Noah's day, most people live for themselves and readily explore sinful pleasures while fewer people live with integrity. But if you lack integrity, you are lacking something significant. People don't know if they can trust you or rely on you, and you're certainly not shining the light of Christ in the world. Speak the truth, keep your promises, and stand up for what's right. We desperately need more people with integrity in this world.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.
- Psalm 27:1-3
God is stronger than anything we may face here on this earth. If you belong to Him, you never need to be afraid.
And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, "Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead." Then Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. - Genesis 23:5-7
It seems clear that the people of this land had great respect for Abraham, probably because it was obvious that God's favor was on him and his family. So when his wife Sarah died, they were willing to let him bury her wherever he wanted. He could have started to act arrogant and superior after receiving that kind of treatment, but he didn't. Instead, he maintained a great respect for the people and even bowed before them--not out of reverence or worship, of course, but just in humility. As we'll see next week, he insisted on paying for the tomb as well, even when it was offered to him for free.
Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man's wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart." But David said, "My brethren, you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. - 1 Samuel 30:22-23
As David led his men into battle to recover what the Amalekites had taken from them, two hundred of his men were so weary that they stayed behind. Once the battle had been won, those who did the fighting wanted to keep the spoils for themselves. They had done all the work and wanted to keep the rewards that they felt like they had earned. But they were really just being selfish, and David had the right perspective. Those men didn't win the battle; God used them to win the battle. Even if you do all the work on some kind of project, God doesn't want you to be selfish with the rewards.
Trusting God's Plan
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you." Belteshazzar answered and said, "My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies! ... this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king ... Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity." - Daniel 4:19, 24, 27
God had given Daniel the interpretation of the king's dream. Because that interpretation included the downfall of the king, Daniel seemed to be quite nervous as he explained the dream to the king. But that nervousness didn't stop him; he didn't try to keep anything secret and gave the king the interpretation as God had given it to him. He knew God had a reason for everything, and he trusted God to protect him even if the king became angry.
Examining Satan, Part 3 of 3
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" ... and [Jesus] cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. - Mark 1:23-24, 34b
Satan is quite real, and he is powerful. However, he doesn't have as much power as we often give him. He only has as much power as God allows him to have. God has always been and will always be in control, no matter how bad things seem. But Satan made a choice to sin against God and mankind also made a choice in the Garden of Eden to sin against God, so because of those initial choices, there are evil things going on in the world around us. But the verses quoted above give us a perfect example of who is more powerful. This demon argued with Jesus, but to no avail. Jesus easily cast out that demon as well as many others. He can handle whatever "demon" may be in your life as well, if you'll just trust Him.
Being Bitter, Part 2 of 2
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. - Ephesians 4:31
Bitterness is dangerous because it has a way of completely taking control of a person, consuming the person from the inside out. It can cause a person to unfairly mistreat others, and it certainly strains his or her relationship with God. So, how can a person overcome bitter feelings? It sounds overly simplified, but I believe the best way is to simply trust God. See, bitterness only develops when that trust becomes broken. If you trust God and know He's taking care of you, then you will have no reason to become bitter in the first place. God doesn't tell us that our lives in this world will be perfect. In fact, Jesus specifically tells us that we WILL have trouble, especially if we follow Him (see John 16:33). But in that same verse He also tells us that He has overcome the world, and that is the hope which we can use to overcome any feelings of bitterness. Bad things are going to happen. But with Jesus on our side, we can still claim the victory over those bad things.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the unfaithful will be caught by their lust.
When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish,
And the hope of the unjust perishes.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
And it comes to the wicked instead.
- Proverbs 11:4-8
Do You Seek This?
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.
- Psalm 27:4-5
This is the desire of David's heart. Do you have the same desire for the Lord, to dwell with Him throughout your life?
Paying His Own Way
And [Abraham] spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "If you will give it, please hear me. I will give you money for the field; take it from me and I will bury my dead there." And Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, "My lord, listen to me; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that between you and me? So bury your dead." And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron. - Genesis 23:13-16a
Ephron tried to give Abraham the tomb for free, but Abraham insisted on paying for it. He wanted to make sure the tomb would remain in his family's possession and he didn't want there to be a question about that at some later time. But I also see another lesson: Abraham wanted to pay his own way, not just take what he could get. Far too many people in our world today want to be lazy and just take what the government will give them. (This doesn't include people who are legitimately trying to find a job and can't.) Are you one or do you know someone like that? Those people would be wise to learn from Abraham's attitude.
Learning From Experiences
So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day. - 1 Samuel 31:6
This marked the end of Saul's tumultuous reign as king over Israel. Throughout his time as king, he had trouble following God and led Israel in the wrong direction on multiple occasions. The Israelites were warned of all of this beforehand but still insisted that God give them a king so that they could be like all the other nations. The old saying "be careful what you ask for because you just might get it" definitely holds true. Sometimes, God gives us what we ask for not because it's best for us but in order to teach us something, because we are often just as stubborn as the Israelites were in those days. Be careful what you pray for, and that you are praying in line with how the Holy Spirit guides you. Otherwise, God may wind up giving you exactly what you asked for only to teach you that you shouldn't have been asking for that in the first place.
The Results of Pride
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" While the word was still in the kings mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! - Daniel 4:28-31
Twelve months later, the dream which Daniel had interpreted for the king came true. He lost his kingdom and was driven away from his people. Why was that? Most likely it had to do with his pride. He had stopped giving praise to God and instead was praising himself for the kingdom which he had built up. Be very careful when it comes to pride. We are only able to do the things that God allows us to do. Sometimes, if we try to take the credit ourselves and leave God out of the picture, He will do something to humble us like he did to the king in this story. It's much better to keep pride in check to begin with.
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. - Mark 1:35
Jesus is God, part of the Holy Trinity. Yet despite being a part of God Himself, He still found it important to go off on His own to pray on a regular basis. I'm sure there were a variety of reasons for this, but one of those reasons was undoubtedly to give us a good example to follow. How often do you pray? Even if you pray daily, does it involve just a quick prayer before a meal or do you really spend true, quality time both talking and listening to God? The latter is what we need to do. I confess that it doesn't come easily for me, as is the case with many people. I wish I could be more like those people who can spend great lengths of time focused in prayer. When I pray, my mind tends to wander and it rarely lasts more than a few minutes. That's something I'm continually trying to improve upon. But prayer is important because it helps to build a closer relationship with God as He provides us with guidance and direction as well as strength and wisdom for the day ahead as we live in this fallen world.
The Kindness Challenge
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32
As Christians, we all know we should do this, so I'm not going to write about something that you almost certainly already know. Instead, I want to challenge you in the days ahead. There are two specific commands in this verse: First, we are to be kind and tenderhearted; second, we are to forgive one another. I want to challenge you to take note of the times in which you do not do one of these things in your interactions with other people over the next few days. Then, go back and review those instances and try to figure out what you could do differently in the future. These are two attributes that are essential parts of God's character, and they should be essential parts of ours as well. It can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget how we're supposed to treat each other, but showing love and forgiveness ourselves are two of the very best ways to show the love and forgiveness of Christ to the world around us.
A gracious woman retains honor,
But ruthless men retain riches.
The merciful man does good for his own soul,
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.
The wicked man does deceptive work,
But he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward.
As righteousness leads to life,
So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.
Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their ways are His delight.
Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished;
But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.
As a ring of gold in a swine's snout,
So is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.
The desire of the righteous is only good,
But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
- Proverbs 11:16-23
God is Your Father
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.
- Psalm 27:10
Some of you may face this situation, where either your parents or other family members have forsaken you after you became a Christian. I am thankful that I don't have to experience that, and it certainly isn't as common in this country as it is in other parts of the world, but it still can happen. If you are in that situation, remember that you're not as alone as you may feel. God, your Heavenly Father, is right there with you all the time.
Seeking God's Help
Then he said, "O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, 'Please let down your pitcher that I may drink', and she says, 'Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink'--let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master." - Genesis 24:12-14
It seems that Abraham wasn't the only one in his household with a great deal of faith. Here, he sent a servant to try to find a wife from his homeland for his son Isaac. But this servant didn't wander around the land trying to find that woman on his own. Instead, he asked God to guide him and had complete trust in God to send the right woman to him. He simply waited by the well until that woman (Rebekah) arrived. He waited on God rather than doing things his own way.
Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, "Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner." And King David followed the coffin. So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. ... And when all the people came to persuade David to eat food while it was still day, David took an oath, saying, "God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!" - 2 Samuel 3:31-32, 35
Numerous times in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, we see how people treated their dead back then, especially if it was a well-respected person. I started thinking about modern-day funeral processions along the road, which seem to cause an increasing number of people to be impatient and disrespectful. Is wherever you're going so important that you can't wait a few extra minutes? That's just one sign of how our society steadily grows more disrespectful in a variety of ways. As Christians, we should be the first group of people to show kindness, patience, and respect toward others.
Humbled, Part 1 of 2
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" - Daniel 4:34-35
After being separated from his kingdom and his people for seven years and being forced to live among the wild animals, this is Nebuchadnezzar's reaction. He realizes God's power and he gives his praise and honor to God. Sometimes we just make it a lot harder than it should be for ourselves. We could just praise God to begin with, but many times we don't, so we force him to step in and do something to humble us, reminding us that everything does in fact belong to Him. That humble perspective, which we even see from Jesus Himself, is the best way to share God's love with the world.
More Than Just a Teacher, Part 1 of 2
But He said to them, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth." - Mark 1:38
I have written about this before, but I feel that it is important to review this idea from time to time because I strongly believe that this is the single biggest hole in the popular theory that Jesus was a good teacher but nothing else. Unfortunately, this idea often goes unnoticed. Jesus did come to earth to preach and teach, but that could not have been His only reason for coming. Anyone who attempts to claim that Jesus was merely a good teacher but is not God's Son and not our Savior is trying to convince people of a logically impossible theory. The reason why it is logically impossible is because Jesus Himself told us that He is the Son of God and the King of the Jews (for an example, see Matthew 11:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, and an expanded account in John 18:29-38). But the logic goes much deeper than that, and I will go into more detail about that next week.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. - Ephesians 5:1
This may be one of the simplest commands in all the Bible, and it's also one of the most powerful. Why doesn't this verse get more attention? I'm not sure, but I believe it should. God is perfect--loving, compassionate, just, and longsuffering, just to name a few of His many characteristics. While it is true that Jesus has saved us from our sins so that we no longer live under the law, that doesn't mean we have the right to just do whatever we feel like doing. The Bible is quite clear that we should follow Jesus' example, and here Paul specifically advises us to be "imitators of God." The best way to do that is to rely more on Him to help us overcome those lusts and sinful desires that are so commonplace in this world. If we truly want to be pleasing to God, we should seek to be more like Him with each passing day.
There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.
The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like foliage.
- Proverbs 11:24-26, 28
Don't put so much trust in worldly possessions and don't horde the things that belong to you, because ultimately everything belongs to God anyway. So live with a generous soul; freely give back to Him and help others who are in need. Show God that He can trust you with everything He has given to you and blessed you with.
Wait on the Lord
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
- Psalm 27:14
I have heard that God answers prayers in one of three ways--with "yes", "no", or "not yet". This verse addresses the "not yet" situations. Waiting can be hard, but if you truly have faith in God and completely trust Him to take care of whatever it is you're facing, then the waiting becomes much easier. Maybe you're looking for a job right now (I know this applies to a lot of people around here). It could be that God has the perfect job lined up for you, but the time isn't quite right--perhaps someone else has to switch jobs or retire first. That's just one example of how God always has a master plan in mind. Besides, waiting can teach us a lot about depending on the Lord, and that's exactly what He wants us to do anyway.
A Thankful Heart
So he said, "I am Abraham's servant. The Lord has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys." - Genesis 24:34-35
This man didn't give Abraham the credit for earning all of his possessions. He gave all the glory to God, and that's what we need to do as well. This country has developed a horrible problem of self-glorification and unthankfulness. Most people take credit themselves for what they have been able to earn or accomplish, and many are not nearly as thankful as we should be. God has richly blessed this country (though if we continue going down this same path, I feel certain He won't continue to do so). Even our poor would be considered rich in many other parts of the world. Even in difficult economic times, we still have so much compared with many people across the world. But are we thankful? No, most people just complain. Take a moment to stop and look around at what God has blessed you with and truly give Him the thanks and the glory!
For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king's intent to kill Abner the son of Ner. - 2 Samuel 3:37
To make a long story short, shortly after Saul's death, a man named Abner was still attempting to keep the power in his house despite the fact that God had ordained David as the next king. One of the men serving under King David killed Abner without David's knowledge or consent. However, the people looked at the king's intentions and understood that, despite their ongoing conflict, he did not have anything to do with Abner's death. The key word here is "intent." One thing I always try to do is to look beyond a person's actions and instead to look at the intentions behind those actions. We're all flawed humans and we all make mistakes from time to time, but I believe we should react differently toward a person who truly has good intentions than we would toward a person who intentionally harms someone else. We know that God looks at the heart and the intentions of a person rather than merely the action itself.
Humbled, Part 2 of 2
At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. - Daniel 4:36-37
Once Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before God and stopped taking the credit himself for his kingdom, that kingdom was restored to him. He continued to praise God from that point forward. Some people might read this story and wonder why God was so cruel to punish this king, but that is the wrong perspective. Pride can be a very dangerous thing, and I am thankful that we serve a God who loves us so much that He does whatever is necessary to help us obtain the proper perspective. As I wrote last week, we even see from Jesus Himself that humility is the best way to live and the best way to share God's love.
More Than Just a Teacher, Part 2 of 2
But He said to them, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth." - Mark 1:38
It is logically impossible to make the claim that Jesus was merely a good teacher and not our Savior. Let's examine the evidence. First, we know that Jesus existed for a time here on earth. Historical records prove that with little room for doubt, and few people would even try to disagree with that claim, even if they don't believe He is the Son of God. Next, we have the Bible. Even if you don't believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it clearly contains an incredible amount of wisdom. Again, few people would argue with that statement. Much of that wisdom came from the mouth of Jesus Himself--and most of it would have had to, because it is beyond what an average human being could come up with on his or her own. As I pointed out last week, Jesus Himself tells us that He is the Son of God. If he weren't really God's Son, how could all of that incredible wisdom have come from the mouth of a liar? I see no way to reconcile that problem, and that is why such a claim is logically impossible.
Love and Sacrifice
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. - Ephesians 5:2
Jesus Christ didn't just come to save us, He also came to give us an example to live by. And that example was not only in the way He lived and the things He taught, but also in His sacrifice. He willingly sacrified Himself for us, and by that example, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves to serve both God and others. He gave everything He had to those people around Him, even humbling Himself to the point that he washed His disciples' feet. How many other so-called spiritual leaders have done anything like that? That's just one of many, many things that makes Jesus unique. And He calls us to sacrifice and give ourselves to others--not just by commanding us but by giving us a perfect example to follow. If we truly walk in love as we are supposed to, that sacrifice will come naturally.
Do You Trouble Your House? (Part 1 of 2)
He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind,
And the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
- Proverbs 11:29
Today's proverb is geared specifically toward families, and mainly to the parents of those families. What is the attitude like in your house? Is it peaceful or argumentative? Now, even the best of families will have the occasional disagreement; there's nothing inherently wrong about that. But take a moment to think about what the prevailing attitude of your house is like. If you don't feel a sense of peace, then that indicates a problem. Is someone troubling your house? Is it you? Before you blame your spouse or someone else, take a look at yourself first to see if there is anything that you could be doing differently. If you are certain it is mainly the fault of your spouse, try to have a talk with him or her, approaching the subject gently and with a careful, listening ear. These sorts of problems are common in many households, and they are most often rooted in selfishness from one side or the other, or in some cases, selfishness on the part of both spouses.
Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
The Lord is their strength,
And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
Save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance;
Shepherd them also,
And bear them up forever.
- Psalm 28:6-9