“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV).

August 20, 2017

The apostle Paul used hyperbole to urge the Corinthians not to place so much emphasis on spiritual gifts and signs. Even taken to the extreme, such would come to nothing without love. Instead, he would have them focus on what motivated their worship. Namely, were they moved by a heart of love?

Paul’s point is clear: Without love, our best communication is garbled, our spiritual giftedness is empty and our religious effort will come to nothing. “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

What motivates you? Is it ambition or a desire to be seen? Or does your heart beat with the agape love of God?

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 36:7 NKJV).

August 19, 2017

The word “lovingkindness” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “chesed.” It might be translated variously as “covenant love, steadfast love, loyal love, unfailing love,” etc. It is essentially the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word, “agape.” And as the psalmist wrote, God’s love is “precious.” It is this amazing character trait of God that moved Him to send His son, Jesus to die in our place. As Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” (John 3:16). God “so loved.” It is this love of God that moves us to put our trust in Him. Like chicks under the wings of a mother hen, we hide in the shadow of His loving salvation. Listen to the heart cry of Jesus over the city of His people who would not respond to His love, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34).

Are you willing to put your trust in the lovingkindness of God?

“In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar” (Esther 3:7 NKJV).

August 18, 2017

The book of Esther explains the origin of the Jewish holiday called “Purim.” The name is taken from the Persian word “Pur,” which meant “lot.” After Haman was promoted by King Xerxes (“Ahasuerus”), he was enraged by Mordecai the Jew’s failure to bow down at his passing. He determined to go before the king with a scheme to murder not only Mordecai, but the entire Jewish population within Persia. The casting of lots (“Pur”) was called for by Haman in order to determine the most fortuitous date for carrying out his scheme. Yet, even though the name of God is not named even once in the book of Esther, His hand is clearly seen in the result of the lot falling twelve months later. For this gave both Mordecai and Esther time to mediate for the Jewish people and ultimately save them from Haman’s plot. As the proverb is written, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). Even when the Lord is apparently absent, He is still working behind the scenes His purposes to unfold.

“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me.” (Psalm 35:1 NKJV).

August 17, 2017

David cried out to the Lord to be both his advocate and avenger. He prayed that the Lord would “plead” his case as a defense attorney would one falsely accused, and “fight” for him as a warrior defending his own.

Yet, what David brought before the Lord as a prayer, those in Christ can depend on as a promise. The Lord Jesus is our Advocate. As the apostle John wrote, “… if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). And the Lord Jesus is our Avenger. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

David’s prayer has become our promise. Jesus is our Advocate and Avenger.

“And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 11:2 NKJV).

August 16, 2017

Those who willingly volunteered to live in Jerusalem were praised by the Jewish people who had returned from exile to rebuild the city. Rebuilding the wall and the temple in Jerusalem had made the city a focus of controversy among the surrounding peoples who lived there. So, anyone who chose to live in Jerusalem was taking a risk and making a personal sacrifice in order to reestablish the city’s existence. It would have been much easier and more profitable to live in the surrounding country where there was more land to cultivate and less possibility of violence. Yet, these faithful few “willingly offered themselves” to live in the inner city of Jerusalem in order to rebuild and secure it.
 
Today, there are believers who “willingly” move to inner cities with the express purpose of living out the gospel and establishing a gospel presence there. They move their families to places around the world, “willingly offering themselves” to dwell wherever the Great Commission carries them. Such are to be blessed by the Lord and the people of God.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV).

August 15, 2017

Is it true that “God won’t allow more to come on you than you can bear?”

This verse from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is often misquoted. Well meaning people say it to others when they see them grieving the loss of a loved one or suffering a severe illness. But this verse is not about the endurance of suffering. It is about temptation, and how to overcome it with God’s help. Jesus taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Paul was taking away the false notion that we have no choice but to give into temptation, or that our sin is somehow God’s fault. As James taught, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13-14). So, when we are tempted, rather than blaming God, we should trust Him to help us escape sin’s trap.

As for the first question, life often puts much more on us than we can bear, but at those times we can answer Christ’s invitation to “Come unto Me” (Matt. 11:28-30).

“Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You” (Psalm 33:22 NKJV).

August 14, 2017

The psalmist asks the Lord to be merciful towards His people according to the proportion of their hope in Him. This is not a request for God’s mercy according to their works, not according to righteousness, nor lack thereof, but according to the measure of the hope they have placed in God. The psalmist’s scale is for the Lord to give them mercy in proportion to their hope. Yet, I would ask for more. I would ask that the Lord show mercy even when (and especially when) my hope is weak. And I ask that His mercy would “be upon us” for others when their hope needs encouragement too.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7 NKJV).

July 28, 2017

Righteous parents who live a life of integrity, leave a legacy that continues to bless their children. Integrity is that crucial character trait of consistency, so that one’s walk matches one’s talk. Children see both the public and private lives of their parents. Those who observe their parent’s faith in Jesus practiced in the home, as well as in the church, are truly blessed.

Do you walk in integrity before your children? Will they be blessed after you?