Jul 2, 2015
Music video by Lincoln Brewster performing Today Is the Day. (C) 2014 Integrity Music
Jul 2, 2015
Music video by Lincoln Brewster performing Today Is the Day. (C) 2014 Integrity Music
Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9–10
In the 2016 Rio Olympics, two athletes in the 5,000-meter race caught the world’s attention. About 3,200 meters into the race, New Zealander Nikki Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino collided and fell. Abbey was quickly up on her feet, but stopped to help Nikki. Moments after the two athletes had started running again, Abbey began faltering, her right leg injured as a result of the fall. It was now Nikki’s turn to stop and encourage her fellow athlete to finish the race. When Abbey eventually stumbled across the finish line, Nikki was waiting to embrace her. What a beautiful picture of mutual encouragement!
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible: “Two are better than one . . . . If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Eccl. 4:9–10). As runners in a spiritual race, we need one another—perhaps even more so, for we are not racing in competition with each other but as members of the same team. There’ll be moments where we falter and need someone to pick us up; at other times, someone may need our encouragement through our prayers or presence.
The spiritual race is not to be run alone. Is God leading you to be a Nikki or Abbey in someone’s life? Respond to His prompting today, and let’s finish the race!
Dear Lord, thank You for the encouragement of fellow believers to help me on my journey. Help me to look for ways to encourage others.
We need each other to get where God wants us to go.
Ecclesiastes is a very unusual book. For much of this inspired text, life is examined without God in the picture (1:2). Although the book concludes with moral admonitions (see 12:1–8), the majority of the book has almost a secular feel to it. Yet because King Solomon the Wise is its author, remarkable principles of life surface. Today’s reading blesses the reader with insights on the benefits of meaningful relationships. The journey of life is not to be walked alone but benefits from mutual support of another.
Can you recall a time when God used someone to help you carry your load?
And now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Joshua 14:10b-11
Seniors are working longer, living longer, retiring later, and even going back to work after they retire. For some, retirement begins a downhill path in terms of health, joy, impact, and mental stimulation. Too few seniors “come to the grave at a full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season” (Job 5:26).
Caleb was not such a senior. The Bible says in his 85th year he was as strong as he was 45 years earlier when Moses sent him, along with Joshua and 10 other men, to spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13). All the men were likely fit at age 40—after all, they had just walked from Egypt through the wilderness to Kadesh. But how many were just as fit 45 years later? Perhaps Caleb was inspired by Moses who died at 120 years: “His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Our senior years should be as fruitful and productive as our younger years.
Be a good steward of your health. Plan on being able to serve God faithfully until He calls you home.
Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. Anonymous
1 Peter 3:13-18
We’d all like to be witnesses for Christ. If we faithfully display His righteousness, love, patience, and joy in our interactions with others, it’s logical to think they’ll be drawn to Jesus. Yet while that’s true for some, many have an opposite reaction.
Jesus called believers the light of the world and said we’re to let our light shine so men will see our good deeds and glorify God (Matt. 5:14-16). But He also said, “All who do evil hate the light” because it exposes their sin (John 3:20 NLT). Then Jesus warned that if men persecuted Him, they would also persecute His disciples (John 15:20).
History has proven Christ’s words to be true. He was hated and crucified, all His disciples except John were martyred, and throughout history Christians have been persecuted in numerous places around the globe. Yet despite all this, the church still marches forward, and people continue to be saved.
While the righteous conduct of the saints and the preaching of the gospel may not always win the lost, many have been converted by watching how Christians suffered. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs describes believers voluntarily laying down their life—even singing, praying, and praising God as they faced excruciating deaths. In parts of the world today, believers are still being faithful witnesses for Christ with their response to persecution and suffering.
Although most of us are not facing intense hatred, our lives may be an irritation to those living in darkness. When we face slander, mocking, or mistreatment because of our faith, let’s remember that a godly response may be our most effective witness.
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; 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 enquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
The theme of the house of God is prominent in the book of Psalms. The phrase “the house of the LORD” occurs seven times, plus once each for “the LORD’s house” and “the house of the LORD our God.” There are three references to “the house of God,” one to “the house of my God,” and one to “the house of our God.” Then, “thy house” is mentioned 11 times, making a total of at least 25 explicit references to the house of the Lord in the book of Psalms alone.
Many of these passages refer, of course, to the actual temple in Jerusalem. On the other hand, since it was in the temple’s holy place that the Shekinah glory dwelled and where the high priest met once each year with God on behalf of the people, there naturally follows a personal metaphorical application with the house of the Lord referring to the spiritual presence of the Lord in the life of each believer.
In our text, the psalmist expresses as his highest desire that of continually dwelling in God’s presence all the days of his life. A number of the other references express the same holy desire, and the New Testament response is that, indeed, “ye are the temple of God, and . . . the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
It is wonderful to “dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,” but that is not all we can look forward to. The glorious concluding assurance of the 23rd Psalm is even greater. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6). HMM
When David was settled upon his throne, his people were accustomed lovingly to pray for him. We find one of their prayer-hymns in the book of Psalms; it is known as—
We shall, as we read it, see Jesus in it, and turn it to spiritual account.
Out of heavens sanctuary came the angel to strengthen our Lord, and from the precious remembrance of God’s doings in his sanctuary our Lord refreshed himself when on the tree. There is no help like that which is of God’s sending, and no deliverance like that which comes out of his sanctuary. The sanctuary to us is the person of our blessed Lord, who was typified by the temple, and is the true sanctuary which God has pitched, and not man: let us fly to the Cross for shelter in all times of need, and help will be sent to us. Men of the world despise sanctuary help, but our hearts have learned to prize it beyond all material aid. They seek help out of the armoury, or the treasury; but we turn to the sanctuary.
To the Lord’s mystical body the richest good comes in answer to the pleadings of his saints. This verse is a benediction befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a Church to its minister. God in the sanctuary of his dear Son’s person, and in the city of his chosen Church, is the proper object of his people’s prayers, and under such a character they may confidently look to him for promised aid.
Before war, kings offered sacrifice, upon the acceptance of which they depended for success. Our blessed Lord presented himself as a victim, and was a sweet savour unto the Most High, and then he met and routed the embattled legions of hell. Still does his burnt sacrifice perfume the courts of heaven, and through him the offerings of his people are received as his sacrifices and oblations. We ought in our spiritual conflicts never to march forth to war until first the Lord has given us a token for good at that altar where faith beholds her bleeding Lord.
Chariots and horses make such an imposing show, that vain man is much taken with them; yet the discerning eye of faith sees more in an invisible God than in all these. The most dreaded war-engine of David’s day was the war-chariot, armed with scythes, which mowed down men like grass: this was the boast and glory of the neighbouring nations; but the saints considered the name of Jehovah to be a far better defence. As the Israelites might not keep horses, it was most natural for them to regard the enemy’s cavalry with more than usual dread. It is, therefore, all the greater evidence of faith that the bold songster can here disdain even the horse of Egypt in comparison with the Lord of Hosts. Alas, how many in our day who prof ess to be the Lord’s, are as abjectly dependent upon their fellowmen, or upon an arm of flesh in some shape or other, as if they had never known the name of Jehovah at all!
The enemies of God are uppermost at first, but before long they are brought down by force, or else fall of their own accord. Their foundation is rotten, and therefore when the time comes it gives way under them; their chariots are burned in the fire, and their horses die of pestilence, and where is their boasted strength? As for those who rest on Jehovah, they are often cast down at the first onset, but an Almighty arm uplifts them, and they joyfully stand upright. The victory of Jesus is the inheritance of his people. The world, death, Satan, and sin, shall all be trampled beneath the feet of the champions of faith; while those who rely upon an arm of flesh shall be ashamed and confounded for ever.
2 Timothy 2:26
Every once and a while in the local church, someone gets so bent out of shape and upset with the church leadership that he behaves in a way that is shocking to everyone. Often this person has served faithfully in the past; yet suddenly he becomes a raging torrent—accusing the pastor, getting upset with the pastoral staff, and trying to stir up as much trouble as possible. The amazing thing is that this person is usually blind to how ugly and ungodly his behavior really is. Often the person even thinks he’s doing the will of God by pointing out the flaws of the church leadership!
Timothy was having similar troubles with several people in his own congregation. Paul referred to this predicament when he wrote that some people in his church were “… taken captive by him [the devil] at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).
The words “taken captive” are from the Greek word zoogreo, which means to take an animal alive. It is the picture of putting an animal in a cage or behind bars at the wo. This means people who are behaving this way are themselves victims—somehow caught and trapped by the devil, caged in resentment or bitterness that drives them to act in a fashion that is inconsistent with who they really are!
When Paul says “taken captive by him [the devil] at his will,” it could be better rendered:
“… who are taken captive by him [the devil] to carry out the devil’s will.”
Here we see a picture of a believer whose emotions the devil has manipulated until the person himself becomes the source of strife, discord, and subversion in the church, all the while thinking that he is doing the will of God. This is a deceived believer, captured by the enemy and now working for the devil to disrupt the local church!
Offense is usually the entry point the devil uses to seduce a believer into this behavior. And it’s amazing just how quickly a dart of offense from the enemy can be thrown into a person’s heart. Equally amazing is the speed in which just one of his evil darts can change that person’s perspective of someone he used to honor and respect! In a matter of seconds, his entire view of that other person can become adversely affected.
Like the dripping of water, the devil begins to repeatedly strike a person’s mind with accusations against the one who was once so revered. Let’s say the one accused is the person’s pastor. The enemy might pound that person’s mind with false allegations such as these:
When the enemy is attacking the mind and emotions in this way, the victim often doesn’t realize that deception is trying to creep into his heart. He is falling into the devil’s trap and doesn’t even know it! At the moment it is happening, the person really believes that what he is thinking and doing is right. This is a classic example of a believer taken captive by the devil to do the devil’s will. This believer truthfully believes he is acting in a right spirit and executing the will of God as he rebels against his God-ordained authority.
Thankfully, God can deal with that person’s heart and reveal how wrong he is, and his relationship with his authority can be completely restored. However, restoration in these kinds of cases is a rare occurrence. The damage is usually so severe that people are left deeply wounded—which is precisely the objective the devil wants to accomplish!
Let me give you this advice to help you avoid ever being caught in this devilish deception. Whenever something becomes a major issue between you and someone else, you would be wise to back up and reexamine what you are upset about. So often the person you are upset with is someone you love and need in your life. Therefore, ask yourself these questions:
I have discovered from my own experience through the years that the devil is constantly seeking opportune moments to wedge bad feelings between people. He is a master at embellishing real or imagined offenses until they become inflated and larger than life. And he knows just when to “sock it to you”!
So slow down, calm down, and give yourself a little time to think and pray before you start accusing someone. It would be a good idea to find a friend who will be honest with you. Ask that friend to tell you the truth about what you are feeling and about how you are behaving. A good dose of honesty from a truthful friend might be exactly what you need to wake you up to what the devil is trying to do in you and through you!
Lord, I never want the devil to take me captive to do his will in my church or place of employment. He is an accuser, so if I am tempted to accuse and slander, it means that the devil is trying to work through me. Give me the ability to recognize this strategy of the enemy as soon as it starts, and to put on the brakes before I get so embroiled in a conflict that I can’t see or think correctly. Holy Spirit, You are the Spirit of Truth, so please enable me to both see and to hear the truth about myself, because I want to stay free!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am free from the deception of the devil! My mind is renewed to the truth of God’s Word. My mind thinks straight and clearly, and I am sound and balanced in my perspective of the situations I face in life. I am teachable when my fiends tell me the truth, helping me see when I am getting too upset about things that aren’t so important. Therefore, I’m able to walk fee of the devil’s snare and stay balanced in my emotions because of the Word that works mightily in me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Then tell them how Christ is the answer to their four greatest needs or concerns:
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more… If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” (Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 130:3, 4)
I am reminded of God’s grace when I reflect upon the fact that the three men whom God most used in the Scriptures were murderers: Moses, David, and Paul.
“[God] satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle‘s… [He is] a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 103:5; 68:5)
Jesus: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
“‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man‘s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.‘” (Luke 12:15)
“But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Psalm 81:16; John 10:10)
THE FEAR OF DEATH
“By his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15)
“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the
Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father‘s hand.” (John 10:27-29)