Truths That Transform – The Dawn’s Early Light
What Is the “Separation of Church & State”?
Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you. Job 12:7
Our grandkids, enraptured, got a close-up look at a rescued bald eagle. They were even allowed to touch him. As the zoo volunteer told about the powerful bird perched on her arm, I was surprised to learn this male had a wingspan of about six and one-half feet, yet because of its hollow bones it weighed only about eight pounds.
This reminded me of the majestic eagle I had seen soaring above a lake, ready to swoop down and snatch its prey in its talons. And I pictured in my mind another big bird—the spindly legged blue heron I had spied standing motionless on the edge of a pond. It was poised to dart its long beak into the water. They’re just two among the nearly 10,000 species of birds that can direct our thoughts to our Creator.
In the book of Job, Job’s friends are debating the reasons for his suffering and ask, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?” (see 11:5–9). In response Job declares, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7). Animals testify to the truth that God designed, cares for, and controls His creation: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (v. 10).
Since God cares for birds (Matthew 6:26; 10:29), we can be assured He loves and cares for you and me, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. Look around and learn of Him.
Where is your favorite place in God’s world? Share your photos with others on Facebook.com/ourdailybread.
God’s world teaches us about Him.
Gaining a good grasp of the book of Job requires us to understand its literary structure. Though the book begins (chs. 1–2) and ends (42:7–16) in narrative format, the bulk of the book is comprised of speeches packaged in poetry (3:1–42:6), including the stunning monologue of the Almighty Himself (38:1–41:34). By the time the reader comes to chapter 12, all three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—have spoken once. Two more series of speeches follow, and in the last series a fourth counselor (Elihu) enters the picture (chs. 32–37). In their well-ordered and reasoned speeches, each friend offers explanations for Job’s calamities and prescriptions for a remedy. Job himself is the speaker in chapter 12, where he indicts the denseness of his first three accusers. He directs them to nature which teaches us about the supremacy and sovereignty of God. In verses 7–8, the language of instruction is quite clear: Animals “will teach”; birds “will tell”; the earth “will teach”; the fish will “inform.” Without a word they witness to the wisdom and greatness of God.
Can you recall a time when you were prompted to reflect on God’s greatness by something in nature?
1 Timothy 1:3-7
God gave mankind the capacity to discern right from wrong. For each person, this inner compass—known as a conscience—is programmed with a distinct belief set and therefore functions differently from everyone else’s. From the moment we begin processing instructions and warnings, our conscience is developing a code of conduct by which we live.
Whether the authority figures in your life offered sound life principles and fair consequences or provided little guidance of real value, your conscience collected the data. As children grow to adulthood, they pay attention to the words and actions of others. Both positive and negative results are added to the data. People who disappoint us teach just as much as those who impress. The programming continues throughout life, so every situation we encounter has the capacity to affect our decisions and actions.
The conscience is a flexible tool; it can absorb new data and adjust a person’s values and perspective. That’s good news for those who begin with poor programming but find valuable biblical guidance later on. Yet flexibility is potentially bad news for those who expose themselves repeatedly to falsehood and vain philosophies. If they ignore wisdom and truth, they will assimilate the deceptive viewpoints of modern culture.
The conscience itself isn’t a wholly reliable resource, but it’s a tool of the One who is completely trustworthy. The Holy Spirit works in conjunction with our inborn moral compass, giving direction when the conscience blares a warning and interpreting God’s Word when a course correction is needed.
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
The title “Lord,” when applied to Christ, is not merely a title of respect but an acknowledgment of relationship. We belong to Him, just as bondservants (slaves) belong to their owners. He owns us, having bought (i.e., “redeemed”) us with His blood, and the distinguishing seal of His purchase is that His servants are expected to “depart from iniquity.”
Thus, whenever “Lord” is attached to His name, there is an implied confession of His Lordship in that particular area of life. For example, to be saved, one must “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” (i.e., “Jesus as Lord”) and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 10:9; Acts 16:31). Following that, we are commanded: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Colossians 2:6).
Even in the mundane affairs of life, He is our Lord. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13); “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). Obedience to the Lordship of Christ is, of course, absolutely essential for a truly Christian and happy family. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, . . . even as the Lord the church. . . . Children, obey your parents in the Lord. . . . And, ye fathers . . . bring [your children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 29; 6:1, 4).
As our text reminds us, Christ’s Lordship implies holiness and full submission to Him. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh. . . . For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord” (Romans 13:14; 14:8). HMM
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians was written by Paul from Macedonia, after Titus had returned from Corinth, and informed him how the Corinthian church had received his first letter. The news was of a mingled kind, and caused him both joy and sorrow. The apostle seems at the time of writing it to have been much troubled and perplexed. We shall commence our reading with the fourth chapter.
2 Corinthians 4:1, 2
All underhand dealing and trickery Paul denounced. He said what he meant, and meant what he said. If we cannot spread the truth by plain speech, we cannot spread it at all.
2 Corinthians 4:3, 4
If men do not understand the gospel, we must take care that the fault does not lie in our language; but wholly with their blinded carnal hearts.
2 Corinthians 4:7
The weakness of the preacher only shows the power of God when he uses such poor means to accomplish so great an end. Never let us refuse to do good, because our abilities are slender; let us the rather yield up our weakness unto the Lord that he may use it to his own glory.
2 Corinthians 4:12
Paul rejoiced that good came to them by his sufferings. He loved them even as a mother who strips off her own raiment, and exposes herself to the cold to screen her child.
2 Corinthians 4:13, 14
He feared not death, for he expected resurrection.
2 Corinthians 4:13
His ruling passion was God’s glory, and this sustained him under sickness, depression, and persecution.
2 Corinthians 4:17, 18
See how little Paul makes of trial; he calls it light and momentary; but how much he makes of glory! he labours for expressions, he cannot with the utmost exertion deliver himself. The way to live above trouble is to look up: we shall grow giddy if we look down upon earthly things, for they are tossed to and fro like waves of the sea.
Afflictions may press me, they cannot destroy,
One glimpse of his love turns them all into joy;
And the bitterest tears, if he smile but on them,
Like dew in the sunshine, grow diamond and gem.
A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand,
I march on in haste through an enemy’s land;
The road may be rough, but it cannot be long,
So I’ll smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.
He built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him. (Genesis 35:7)
After Jacob’s first memorable encounter with God in the wilderness, he called the place Beth-el, which means “the house of God.” Many years later, after he had suffered and sinned and repented, and discovered the worthlessness of all earthly things, he renamed the place, El-beth-el; literally “the God of the house of God.”
Thus Jacob had shifted his emphasis from the sacred place to the God he had met there. God Himself now took the center of his interest.
We need to consider that many Christians never get beyond Beth-el. God is in their thoughts but He has not been given first place. Faithfulness to the local church is a good thing; but when the church becomes so large and important that it hides God from our eyes, it may become a good thing wrongly used.
Always God must be first—and we ought never forget that the church was never intended to substitute for God! What is our primary interest? Is it Beth-el or El-beth-el? Is it my church or my Lord? Is it my creed or my Christ?
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 10:32
Gracious promise! It is a great Joy to me to confess my Lord. Whatever my faults may be, I am not ashamed of Jesus, nor do I fear to declare the doctrines of His cross. O Lord, I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart.
Sweet is the prospect which the text sets before me! Friends forsake and enemies exult, but the Lord does not disown His servant. Doubtless my Lord will own me even here, and give me new tokens of His favorable regard. But there comes a day when I must stand before the great Father. What bliss to think that Jesus will confess me then! He will say, “This man truly trusted me, and was willing to be reproached for my name’s sake; and therefore I acknowledge him as mine.” The other day a great man was made a knight, and the Queen handed him a jeweled garter; but what of that? It will be an honor beyond all honors for the Lord Jesus to confess us in the presence of the divine Majesty in the Heavens. Never let me be ashamed to own my Lord. Never let me indulge a cowardly silence, or allow a fainthearted compromise. Shall I blush to own Him who promises to own me?