Love Is an Excuse: June 15-21, 2019 (Sat-Fri): Read through 1 Kings, Nehemiah, and Esther

Love is often an excuse. People can do some pretty stupid things in the name of love. Don’t get me wrong. I like love, and I love my family and try to practice love wherever I go. However, love gets blamed for a lot of foolishness in the world.

He says, “But we’ve been dating for two years. We have so much in common. I know that she’s not a believer, but we love each other.”

She says, “I know he abuses me and the kids sometimes, but I don’t want to leave him. I love him.”

He says, “I moved in with her because we love each other.”

She says, “I don’t want a man. I want to be with her because we love each other.”

He says, “My wife is not meeting my needs. This lady at work is so understanding, and we love each other.”

She says, “Yes, we had sex because I love him. I mean, we’ve been dating for six months.”

Remember that God is love (1 John 4:8,16), so love—God’s kind of love—is submissive to God’s rule. Love gets blamed for many unwise things which are really rooted in infatuation, lust, and selfishness. God’s kind of love is interested in the best for the other person, not what’s in it for me. I definitely see my love falling way short of the ideal, but I try to let God’s Spirit lead me in the right way. I just take the reins oftentimes.

Dating non-believers, excusing physical abuse, cohabitation, homosexual relationships, and having sex outside marriage are all foolishness because they all disregard God’s express commands or wise principles.

Solomon was the wisest man in the world in his time, but He disregarded the Lord’s express commands. Solomon ignored the wise principles which God had given him. He allowed his heart to be ensnared by foreign women who worshipped other gods. He started well but ended weak, miserably weak. “King Solomon loved many foreign women…from the nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn your heart away to follow their gods.’ To these women Solomon was deeply attached in love….and they turned his heart away. When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been….Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not remain loyal to the Lord….The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had commanded him about this, so that he would not follow other gods, but Solomon did not do what the Lord had commanded” (1 Kings 11 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Let’s not blame our lust, infatuation, and selfishness on love. So grade your love. Is it following God’s ways? Is it seeking the best for others?

This week you’ll read…

1 Kings 1-11: Solomon was a blessed king, and he had wisdom beyond compare. Sadly, however, he allowed himself to be led astray by his many foreign wives who worshipped other gods, and, as a result, the kingdom was split after his death.

Nehemiah 13: “Didn’t King Solomon of Israel sin in matters like this? There was not a king like him among many nations. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, yet foreign women drew him into sin” (Nehemiah 13 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Esther 1-6: “Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, ‘Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this’” (Esther 4 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalm 77-83: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. But My people did not listen to My voice; Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans. If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes” (Psalm 81 in The Christian Standard Bible).

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Sufficient: June 8-14 (Sat-Fri): Read through 2 Samuel, Nehemiah, and 2 Corinthians

Sufficient. Enough. Adequate. Plenty. God’s grace is. No matter your circumstance, believer, God’s grace will be enough for you. You don’t have to worry about running out or not having what you need.

In the middle of family turmoil—separation, divorce, infidelity, teenage rebellion—God’s grace is adequate. He will supply all that you need to deal with the situation—to heal, to forgive, to move on, to hang on, to love.

No matter what your financial worries, health concerns, and employment issues are, His grace is plenty. All that you need will be there. Trust in Him. His storehouse won’t run dry to supply all that you need at the right time. Sometimes you think that you can’t go on one more day or minute, but He gives what you need at that moment to make it through.

Even if your situation brings you to death’s door, God’s grace will be sufficient to carry you over the threshold and keep you beyond.

Rest in the all-sufficiency of Jesus.

This week you’ll read…

2 Samuel 13-24: Rape, incest, revenge, insurrection, deception, murder. The fruit of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba play out in this reading. In confronting David about his sin, God said to David through Nathan the prophet, “Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hethite to be your own wife” (2 Samuel 12:10 in The Christian Standard Bible). The consequences of sin can linger, yet even in that God’s grace is sufficient.

Nehemiah 6-12: “Remember me, my God, with favor” (Nehemiah 13 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalm 76: “And You—You are to be feared. When You are angry, who can stand before You?” (Psalm 76 in The Christian Standard Bible)

2 Corinthians 8-13: “For if I want to boast, I wouldn’t be a fool, because I would be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it would leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me” (2 Corinthians 12 in The New Living Translation).

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God’s Treadmill: May 22-31, 2019 (Wed-Fri): Read through Ruth, 1 Samuel, Jonah, and Colossians

When I was in seminary and living on campus there, two seminary friends and I got on a jogging kick. Three days each week, we got up early in the morning and jogged around the campus together. I was already near my ideal weight, so for me it was really about getting into shape. Soon, I could run a 5K nonstop and in decent time. Eventually, we lagged and then fell out of the habit. Now, I need to exercise to get into shape and to lose some pounds.

One day, it was raining, so one of my jogging friends and I went to the seminary’s athletic center to run on the treadmill. We decided that we’d try to run our same time as usual but on the treadmill. On the non-rainy days as we jogged on campus, we saw the large variety of flowers planted along the sidewalks, roads, and entryways. We jogged past large oaks and dozens of cars. We waved at other joggers and walkers or stammered out-of-breath hellos or good mornings to passersby. However, in the athletic center on the treadmill, there was none of that. It was pretty much all the same for the duration of the run. Something else about that run: I ran for three miles without going anywhere.

That’s how it is to run from God. It’s like you’re running on a treadmill. You don’t get anywhere. Consider Jonah, the man who eventually was fish food and a bad attitude on steroids. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach to the people there about God’s impending judgment. Instead, he chose to run from God by boarding a ship headed in the opposite direction. Now what would make you run from the Creator of the universe who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present? The seminary word for that is stupid, and each of us has enough stupid ingrained within us to do just that—run from God. So running from God really is like running on a treadmill—you really get nowhere except tired out.

So here are some questions for you:

  • Are you running from God?
  • Why are you running?
  • What do you hope to achieve by running from God?
  • Do you really think that you can escape Him?
  • Would you consider following Him instead of running?

This week you’ll read…

Ruth 1-4: “But Ruth replied: ‘Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God’” (Ruth 1:16 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Samuel 22-31: Praise God for friendships like Jonathan and David. When David was stressed and down, Jonathan showed up. “One day near Horesh, David received the news that Saul was on the way to Ziph to search for him and kill him. Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jonathan reassured him. ‘My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.’ So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the Lord. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh” (1 Samuel 23 in The New Living Translation).

Psalms 66-75: Of course, David would have been worried with Saul nearby looking to kill him. Many of the Psalms which David wrote seem to fit this scenario, and Saul did chase David all over the country it seems. “Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Those who hate me without cause are more numerous than the hairs of my head; my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me, are powerful.” (Psalm 69 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Jonah 1-4: “I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster” (Jonah 4 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Colossians 1-4: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

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God’s Rejects: May 15-21, 2019 (Wed-Tues): Read through Judges, 1 Samuel, and 1 Corinthians

Here are some of the scariest words in the Bible: “But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16 in The Christian Standard Bible). Samson, the strong man used of God, thought that he’d respond as he’d done before, but his God-given strength was gone. How often have Christians forsaken God in devotion, morality, and principle and then continued on in rebellion or worse, in a Pharisaical Christianity, never realizing that God’s blessing on their lives has departed. They’re operating in their own power for their own kingdom to prop up a façade of Christianity. We can’t deny that God used Samson in the middle of his flaws and even capitalized on those flaws at times (Judges 14:1-4), but that’s no excuse to wallow in sin and corruption.

King Saul was another God-follower who had a hard time choosing to follow God over fears and appearances. He became impatient and took things into his own hands (1 Samuel 13:7-14), and later he decided to amend God’s commands for his personal interests (1 Samuel 15:1-35). I’ve done it, too. I’ve been the Pharisee. I’ve been impatient in the things of God. I’ve rewritten the commands of God to my own liking. What about you?

Regarding God’s rejection, true and sincere repentance is the only solution coupled with calls upon the mercy of God. Of course, God makes the choice whether to use us again or not. He chooses to use whom He wills. It’s a privilege to be His instrument, and we must remain pliable in His hands, walking in His ways for His glory not ours. Although Samson was used of God at the end of his life, he walked a rejected and dejected life for a while. I don’t want to end up in the God’s Rejects Club in the company of King Saul, Judas, Ananias and Saphira, Esau, and Cain. I want to finish well in the company of Abraham, Moses, Paul, John, and Jesus.

This week you’ll read…

Judges 15-21: “He called out to the Lord: ‘Lord God, please remember me. Strengthen me, God, just once more. With one act of vengeance, let me pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.’ Samson took hold of the two middle pillars supporting the temple and leaned against them, one on his right hand and the other on his left. Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ He pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the leaders and all the people in it. And those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life.” (Judges 16 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Samuel 15-21: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalms 61-65: “God, you are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory. My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.” (Psalm 63 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Corinthians 15-16: Recently, I was watching an edited version of a newer Sherlock Holmes movie in which Mr. Holmes seems to imply that his investigation gave an unsupernatural explanation to the resurrection of Christ. He says, “In fact, I may well have reconciled thousands of years of theological disparity.” Sadly, some people in the real world, too, lack the faith to believe in the one true God and His miraculous workings in our world. Specifically, they don’t believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Christianity hinges on the resurrection, but our faith in the resurrection doesn’t make the resurrection so. Because it is so and because we believe in Christ and His resurrection, this makes our faith real and true. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15 in The Christian Standard Bible).

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God’s Promises: May 8-14, 2019 (Wed-Tues): Read through Judges, 1 Samuel, and 1 Corinthians

A person’s word used to be his bond. A business transaction could be sealed with a handshake, but in today’s world, 100-page contracts can be insufficient to keep an agreement together. Oftentimes, a man’s word goes as far as the next word out of his mouth. Who can you trust anymore? Of course, there are many people who hold to their word even when it gets painful, and there is always Someone who keeps His word. The Lord is dependable. The Lord keeps His promises.

Think of a time in which you were in the middle of a really difficult circumstance? What helped you make it through? You may come up with a number of answers, and one of those may be hope—hope in the promises of God. Your bank account may prove unreliable. Your relatives may turn out to be less than trustworthy. Your spouse or best friend may end up being less than ideal, but there is a God who is always there. There is a God (and only one) who keeps His promises.

In Judges 13 in the midst of Israel’s running off from God and subsequent suffering under God’s discipline at the hands of the Philistines, the wife of a man named Manoah was visited by the Angel of the Lord. She was barren but was told that she would conceive and bear a son. The Angel of the Lord affirmed this promise to Manoah, and in time the couple was expecting a baby and then had a boy named Samson. Anyone could have given a positive message to the couple about her womb opening and her becoming pregnant, but only God has the ability to give the message and cause it to happen. We can make promises and be thwarted in carrying them out, but I’m not advocating us stopping trusting everyone. However, only God is the truly ultimately trustworthy Person on whom we can rely. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of your trust in God and reliance upon His promises.

This week you’ll read…

Judges 8-14: “The angel of God appeared to her and told her, ‘I know that you are barren and childless, but you’re going to become pregnant and bear a son.’ …The woman gave birth to a son. They named him Samson. The boy grew and God blessed him”(Judges 13 in The Message Bible).

1 Samuel 8-14: “When Samuel heard their demand—‘Give us a king to rule us!’—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God. God answered Samuel, ‘Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected Me as their King.’” (1 Samuel 8 in The Message Bible).

1 Corinthians 8-14: “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love ​— ​but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13 in The Christian Standard Bible).

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God’s Water Cycle: May 1-7, 2019 (Wed-Tues): Read through Judges, 1 Samuel, and 1 Corinthians

Ever gotten stuck in a cycle? When my wife and I were newly married, she worked at a battered women’s shelter for a couple years. One of the things that she learned was that women can get into a cycle of abuse. The abusing husband or boyfriend charms the lady. Tension eventually builds. Then there is an episode of abuse against the woman. The man woos her back in a honeymoon phase of apologies and promises and displays of “love.” Eventually, tension builds again, and there is another act of violence against the woman. Then the abuser draws the woman back again through a honeymoon phase. The woman loves the man and keeps thinking that this time it will be different that he’s changed, and she’s trapped in this cycle of abuse.

Water goes through a cycle on the earth as well. Humor me for a minute as I present a simplistic view of the earthly water cycle. Water falls on the earth as rain. The rain creates run-off as gravity leads water to the lowest point available. The sun heats up the water, causing evaporation. As the water vapor rises in the atmosphere, it cools and attaches to particles in the sky and condenses to form clouds. As the clouds build, they eventually drop their water and rain upon the earth.

In the book of Judges, the Israelites were in a cycle as well, God’s Water Cycle. God would rain down His blessings upon His people. Eventually, they would get their eyes off the Blesser and onto the blessings. They would run off into sin and pursue other gods. God would heat things up for the Israelites by allowing them to become ensnared and enslaved. This would cause them to lift up prayers to heaven in repentance for deliverance. After letting them suffer for a good while, God would come to their rescue, deliver them, and rain His blessings upon them. After which, they would in time run off to pursue other things and gods.

You are on this cycle. Sometimes it’s a simple devotion such as this one which prompts your repentance from a detour. At other times, God may have to use a stronger wake-up call to bring repentance in our lives. I’ve experienced both. Save yourself time and heartache. Listen to the sermon. Heed the soft correction. Listen to that still, small Voice.

So where are you on this cycle?

  • Are you in the middle of a shower of blessings? Keep your eyes on the Blesser.
  • Are you running off? Turn back to the Lord.
  • Are you in the heat of God’s correction or training? Are you in the middle of some catastrophe and discipline of God? Stop resisting God and turn back to Him.
  • Are your prayers rising up to God with a heart of repentance and love?

This week you’ll read…

Judges 1-7: “God’s angel went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, ‘I brought you out of Egypt; I led you to the land that I promised to your fathers; and I said, I’ll never break my covenant with you—never! And you’re never to make a covenant with the people who live in this land. Tear down their altars! But you haven’t obeyed Me! What’s this that you’re doing? So now I’m telling you that I won’t drive them out before you. They’ll trip you up and their gods will become a trap.” When God’s angel had spoken these words to all the People of Israel, they cried out—oh! how they wept! They named the place Bokim (Weepers). And there they sacrificed to God” (Judges 2 in The Message Bible).

1 Samuel 1-7: Hannah was despondent. She was barren and her husband’s other wife ridiculed her because Hannah had no children, so she went to the tabernacle. “Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, ‘Lord of Armies, if you will take notice of your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut’” (1 Samuel 1 in The Christian Standard Bible).

1 Corinthians 1-7: “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” (1 Corinthians 3 in The New Living Translation)

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ID: Your Identity in Christ: April 22-30, 2019 (Mon-Tues): Read through Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Ephesians

Everyone has an identity, but how would you identify yourself? Many people identify themselves by what they do. You may be a carpenter, an accountant, a teacher, a preacher, a clerk, or a salesman. I’m not asking what you do. You can change what you do, but you can’t change your identity. I used to be a public school teacher. Now I’m a minister. My mom used to be a beautician and then a school bus driver, but she’s been a nurse for many years now. You can change what you do, but you cannot change your identity. Now don’t start rattling off your social security number. We don’t want any identity theft going on.

Your identity is who you are. So who are you? The two main identity groups in the world are children of the devil and children of God. If you’re a child of God, then you have an awesome identity. Now get a hold of yourself. You can’t take credit for it. God did it. He gave each believer a jaw-dropping identity, and you’ll read about it in this last reading in April.

Ephesians is one of the greatest books of the Bible (in my opinion), and each of its six chapters is power-packed with pieces of your identity in Christ. You want to know who you are? Look below. I’ve personalized these truths from Ephesians. If you’re a believer in Christ, say each one of these with confidence and conviction. Don’t just take my word for it. Read God’s word.

ID: Your Identity in Christ:

If you’re a true believer in Christ, I pray that you will truly grasp your identity in Christ, who you really are, and live in confidence that God has made you this. You’re not hoping to attain this. He has already given you this identity.

This week you’ll read…

Deuteronomy 22-34: “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it. …I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Joshua 22-24: “Therefore, fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the Lord. But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.” (Joshua 24 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Psalms 52-60: “ When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56 in The Christian Standard Bible).

Ephesians 1-6: “Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand” (Ephesians 6 in The Christian Standard Bible).

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