Don’t Play Games With God

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you … and these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:3-4

Have you ever seen a book on the joy of the Pharisees? That’s not to say the subject has never been explored. But where would a writer begin? There is nothing in the Gospels to suggest that the legalistic religious leaders of Jesus’ day were overflowing with joy. Instead, there is plenty to suggest that they spent a good deal of time nurturing their religious outward appearance to conceal a barren inner spiritual life.

Hypocrisy—that’s what Jesus called it (Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27-29). His most vivid illustration of the Pharisees’ spiritual life was calling them “whitewashed tombs,” beautiful on the outside but filled with “dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” How can anyone cultivate joy when their attention is focused on being right about religious rules and living a double-standard life? The apostle John raised the same issue in 1 John. Joy is found in fellowship with God and others (1 John 1:3-4). We can’t live a hypocritical life and walk in that fellowship.

As we transition from spiritual darkness to light, we are tempted to play spiritual games. Stay true; stay joyful; stay in fellowship with God.

Praising the only Lamb of God

Revelation 5:1-12

In heaven, there is unceasing worship and praise of God. Revelation 4 and 5 describe John’s vision, in which four living creatures proclaimed God’s holiness day and night. The apostle then heard 24 elders respond with a declaration of God’s worthiness (Revelation 4:8-11). He listened as they sang a new song of praise, declaring that the Lamb of God had purchased men for God—and then witnessed multitudes of angels proclaiming Jesus’ worth (Revelation 5:9-12).

What was it about Jesus that motivated such heartfelt worship? It was who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. He is …

• God the Son, who laid aside His divinity so that He might rescue us (Phil. 2:6-7).

• The Savior who took on human form and died so that we might be saved (Phil. 2:8).

• The only One who revealed God the Father to us (John 14:9).

• The Son of Man, who chose to identify with us because of His great love (John 1:14, John 15:13).

• The Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

• The Lion of Judah, who will return as the judge, the ruler, and the authority over all (Revelation 5:5).

These same attributes should motivate our praise and worship of Jesus. Ask the Lord to help you establish a pattern of praising Him and responding in adoration each time you think of Him. Heavenly music is to be sung by the redeemed on earth for all to hear.

Forget Not His Commandments

“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.” (Proverbs 3:1)

It is vitally important that even though we are saved by grace and not by the works of the law, we never forget that God’s law is essentially a statement of God’s holiness. We should desire to know and follow God’s commandments simply because they are “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), not because we seek salvation through them.

It is noteworthy that the anonymous writer of the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119), in which practically every verse refers to the Scriptures, stressed seven times that he would never forget the laws and commandments of his Lord. May the Lord teach us to share the same determination. Note:

“I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (v. 16).

“For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes” (v. 83).

“I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me” (v. 93).

“My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law” (v. 109).

“I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts” (v. 141).

“Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law” (v. 153).

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments” (v. 176).

This seventh reference is actually the closing verse of this remarkable 119th Psalm. It beautifully points up the urgency of not forgetting the commandments of God. He will seek us when we stray and bring us back home to Him, for we remember and love His law. HMM

The Strength of Israel will not lie

2 Kings 7:1-17

Some time after the cure of Naaman, the king of Syria besieged Samaria and reduced the people to such famine that mothers ate their own children. At last Elisha was permitted to assure the miserable people of deliverance.

2 Kings 7:2

He was profane as well as unbelieving. This sarcasm was a specimen of his usual sneers at the Lord and his prophet.

2 Kings 7:6, 7

If the Lord wills it, the most valiant foes of his church will run away like frightened hares. Why should we fear those who so soon become afraid of themselves?

2 Kings 7:8-13

God’s promise was forgotten or smothered in its effect by their fears; however they did well to send and see. Some will not take the trouble even to look when a blessing is given, they feel so certain that it cannot be possible.

2 Kings 7:14-16

God’s word was fulfilled to the penny and to the hour.

2 Kings 7:17

Providence fulfills the threats as well as the promises of heaven: the fine flour is sold, and the infidel nobleman is crushed. Dreadful will it be if any one of us should perish after the same example of unbelief, yet we shall do so if we see the blessings of the gospel all around us and lose them ourselves from want of faith.

 

You Still Have Room for Improvement!

John 6:5, 6

When Jesus lifted up His eyes and saw the vast crowd coming toward Him on the mountainside, He turned to Philip and asked him a question that Philip may have perceived to be preposterous. Jesus asked him, “… Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Let’s talk about why this question could have seemed preposterous to Philip and to the rest of the disciples. In John 6:10, we find that there were five thousand men in the crowd that day. This word “men” is not a nonspecific term that includes men, women, and children; rather, it is the Greek word andres, which categorically means male individuals. Matthew 14:21 confirms that there were “… about five thousand men, beside women and children.” Jewish tradition would have forbidden the women and children to sit down to eat with the men; thus, we can know that the women and children were seated separately from the men on the mountainside and were not included in the figure of five thousand.

If we add to that number of five thousand men all the women and children who accompanied them, we find that this easily could have been a crowd of thirty thousand or more. Just add five thousand husbands, five thousand wives, and approximately five children for each family, and you’ll reach a sum of thirty thousand people.

Remember, the people of Israel believed that children were a blessing from the Lord and tried to have as many children as possible. Therefore, it is very likely that the number of children present in that crowd may have been even higher than this estimate of five per family. This makes the figure of thirty thousand people a very reasonable estimate. In fact, it is most likely an underestimation! The point, however, is this: This was not just a large crowd; a very large multitude of people had walked up that mountainside to see Jesus.

Now do you see why Jesus’ question must have seemed so preposterous to Philip and the other disciples? Not one of them was prepared to throw a banquet for so many thousands of people. To make matters worse, they were out in the wilderness on top of a mountain, far from stores where massive amounts of food could be purchased. In fact, Matthew 14:15, 16 tells us the disciples were so concerned about feeding the multitude that they told Jesus, “… This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.”

Jesus put the challenge to His disciples to quickly find food to feed this massive multitude. John 6:6 tells us that Jesus did this for the explicit purpose to “prove” them. The word “prove” is the Greek word peiradzo, a Greek word that was usually used to denote a test to reveal the quality of a material substance.

For instance, the word peiradzo was used to depict the process of testing metal to discover whether its quality was superb or inferior. As the metal was put through multiple degrees of intense fires, the fire caused the impurities in the metal that were hidden to the natural eye to rise to the surface. If no impurities surfaced, the metal was free of defects. But if impurities rose to the surface, the metal still needed future fires to make it pure and strong. Therefore, this testing by fire was a calculated, premeditated investigation, deliberately designed to expose any deficiency in the metal that would later cause it to fracture or fail.

This positively means that Jesus was deliberately testing the disciples, putting this challenge before them to expose the true level and quality of their faith. As a result, the disciples would discover whether or not they still had room for improvement in the faith realm.

As Jesus looked out at the crowd, John 6:6 tells us that He already knew exactly what He was going to do. He really didn’t need His disciples’ help; He just wanted them to recognize the true level of their own faith. Thus, Jesus asked them this question in order to “prove” them. He knew that there is just something about a new problem that exposes any deficiency in a person’s faith and accentuates any weak area that remains in his life.

In verses 7 through 9, Andrew and Philip began to frantically search high and low through the crowd, rummaging around for whatever food they could find. In other words, they were seeking to solve this problem through natural means rather than to say, “Jesus, I know You can do all things. Speak the word, and this multitude will be fed.”

Finally, Andrew found five loaves of bread and two fish—a tiny portion of food that was certainly not sufficient to feed a crowd of thirty thousand or more! But in this moment, Jesus revealed Himself as the Lord of Multiplication. Taking those five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus showed His disciples that He was Lord even over impossible situations like this one.

Don’t make the same mistake Philip did when a new problem or challenge arises in your life. Instead of fretting and failing to believe, stop to remember all the supernatural things you’ve already seen Jesus do in your life. Could the solution to this new dilemma possibly be any more difficult than any of the miracles you’ve already seen Him perform on your behalf?

And if the situation you’re facing has exposed the fact that your faith level isn’t what it should be, aren’t you thankful this happened so you could see the true condition of your faith walk? Now you know that your faith still has room for improvement. It is a demonstration of God’s mercy that He lets you find this out now rather than later in a critical moment when your faith might fracture or fail in a moment of great need. Is it possible that God is trying to help by showing you that your faith life still has room for improvement?

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I thank You for loving me so much that You help me discover the genuine level of my faith before I get into a situation where I seriously need it. To realize my need for improvement now is so much better than to find out when a difficult situation arises that my faith isn’t sufficient for the challenge. So I thank You for the tender, loving care You have shown me by placing me in this challenging situation that reveals the true level of my faith. Help me to press forward and to grow in this area of my life!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that my faith is growing and getting stronger every day. I am thankful for the situations that have exposed my true faith level, for now I can work on improving the capacity of my faith. I know that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, so I purpose to baptize my spirit and soul in the truth of God’s Word until my faith grows to a higher level than I’ve ever attained before! I want to possess mountain-moving faith, so I determine to press forward with my whole heart and soul toward the goal of increasing the capacity of my faith!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. What past challenge comes to mind that exposed the true level of your faith and revealed that your faith still had room for improvement?
  2. Are you facing a situation right now in your life, ministry, or business that is demanding more of your faith than you’ve ever experienced before?
  3. What steps can you take to develop a daily plan to increase the capacity and strength of your faith?

 

Bitter Or Better?

Forget the beauty — macho thing! In this fourth quarter of life everything seems to be either bulging or sagging. Art Linkletter was probably right in telling seniors, “The best deterrent to promiscuity is nudity.” I can’t possibly look as old as the photos depict. Sleep or no sleep, when I look in the mirror the bags under my eyes make my nose look like a pack horse. My sixty something carcass seems to be falling apart! A friend (a “friend”?) recently told me, “Dwight, you’ll never be as old as you look.” And then had the nerve to ask, “Do you get out often?” What? Do I look like I am growing barnacles, or something?

 

Well, Paul had it right, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16b) I hope that is the case with you and me (the latter part about renewal, that is).

 

One thing is sure: As the years pass, we will either get better or bitter. A lot of it depends on how we treat our spouse, relative to Scriptural imperatives:

 

“Live in harmony with one another” — Rather than pick at each other

“Be sympathetic” — Rather than criticize each other

“Love as brothers” — Rather than compete as adversaries

“Be compassionate” — Rather than maintain an attitude of benign indifference

 

Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult.” (1 Peter 3:8b-9a)

 

And the reason we need to live this way? “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:10, 11) Translated: If you want peace at home, conduct your marriage affairs God’s way.

 

In an unguarded moment, a 70 year old acquaintance said of his marriage, “Well, we tolerate each other.” “Tolerate” each other? Tell me, has your marriage slipped to the toleration level? Gone stale like cold potatoes? Perhaps what you thought you were getting in a mate, and what you ended up with are not the same. Perchance that’s the difference in marriage between infatuation and true love.

 

“Infatuation is when you think that he’s as sexy as Robert Redford, as smart as Henry Kissinger, as noble as Ralph Nader, as funny as Woody Allen, and as athletic as Jimmy Conners. Love is when you realize that he’s as sexy as Woody Allen, as smart as Jimmy Conners, as funny as Ralph Nader, as athletic as Henry Kissinger, and nothing like Robert Redford, you’ll take him anyway.”