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Encouragement

Note: This post was copied from John Piper at Desiring God:

Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.

Three reasons this is not legalism:

  1. You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
  2. You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
  3. It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.

So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.

Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.

Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading. (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)

 

One of our people at church asked a question about a recent Bible reading as we are reading through the Bible this year.

“In Exodus 16:3, the Israelites begin complaining about how hungry they are.  What happened to all of the animals that they had in Egypt?  I don’t recall reading that anything specific happened to the animals.  Do you think they left them behind for sake of speed?”

Ex 12:38 says that “many other people [Gentile Egyptians] went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.” as they left Egypt. No doubt, it wouldn’t have been difficult for Pharaoh’s Army, (foot soldiers as well as horses & chariots [Ex 14:9-10]) to overtake the people with their slow-traveling livestock.

For “large droves of livestock” to die in the desert would have been a big deal, but yet we aren’t told about it. When we come to 19:13, God warns Moses to not allow people nor animals to touch Mount Sinai. In 21:21 and 22:1-5, 10-15, God gives instructions on how to handle situations with animals. In 24:5, Moses and the young Israelite men “offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings”. Now, how would all of this be possible if the people had no animals (16:3)?

It seems that Pharaoh and his army (14:17) weren’t the only ones whose hearts were hardened; it appears that repeatedly, the Israelites’ hearts were hardened as well. But in 14:31, the people repented and pledged their undying allegiance to Yahweh and Moses. Yet again, in 15:24, the people are back to grumbling because their lack of water. Even after witnessing the mighty hand of God in drying up the Red Sea, and seeing the recent abundant provision of the Lord in 15:27 in providing fresh springs (not ponds, rivers or lakes), as well as shade (though it would have been difficult for very many of the 3 Million+ people [16:37] to be able to enjoy the limited shade of 70 palm trees). In 16:2-3, the people are grumbling again. It was a vicious cycle that we see the people living throughout the Exodus.

It’s easy for us to point out their faults and overlook our own similar vicious cycles.

Application: Are you grateful for God’s abundant provisions? Or are you, once again, grumbling?

 

In Judges 17, we come across a young man named Micah. Micah’s name means, “Who is like God”. But Micah isn’t much like God. He steals silver from his mother and then when he ‘fesses up, his mother dedicates some of the silver for Micah to make into two idols. Micah hires out a Levite to be a father-figure and priest for his private shrine. He is convinced that God is pleased and will prosper him for having a Levite for a priest.

How bizarre!

But is it?

 

Two things emerge as noteworthy.

1. A “man of God” allows himself to be bought to aid in someone’s sin.

2. A “believer” feels that God will bless him in his sin because he has a good luck charm in having a “man of God” assisting him.

 

A few questions:

What would cause a “man of God” to compromise his integrity and his calling? Perhaps he was burned out from the work of ministry. Perhaps he had been terminated from his previous position. Regardless, here was a man who needed work and Micah offered him a regular paycheck.

How could someone knowingly run headlong into sin, expecting God’s blessing?

In answering both of these questions, let me just say that it happens every day in the Twenty-first Century for the same reasons. As Solomon wisely said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

People see their vocation simply as an occupation rather than a calling. Since it’s merely a means to the end of putting food on the table, they don’t see anything wrong with using their God-given abilities to make a quick buck. The sad thing is that it is worse when the vocation is “ministry”.

As a case in point, in my lifetime we have seen an agenda emerge from a minority group in our society. We were told that 10% of our population is “gay”. Because we bought this lie, we were told that we needed to tolerate their existence. Next we were told that we needed to accept their lifestyle as normative. Currently, we are being told that we need to endorse homosexual unions by changing the centuries-held definition of marriage and promote adoption of children by these “loving couples”. After all, we are told, orphans are better off being raised by a loving homosexual couple than a dysfunctional heterosexual couple. The implication is that there are few non-dysfunctional heterosexual couples, and that because they have had to overcome society’s intolerances, homosexual couples are more committed in their love for each other. Some of the most outspoken supporters of “gay marriage” are members of the clergy in mainline denominations like the United Methodists and Episcopalians. These denominations have been rocked by division as they have begun ordaining/endorsing clergy who live openly as homosexuals. Somehow, homosexuals expect God’s blessing by having members of the clergy assisting in their pursuits toward legitimacy of sin. Like I said, Solomon was right: nothing is new. We just change the words.

People try to manipulate God all the time in an attempt to get His blessing. They would probably deny it, but people frequently try to make deals with God. “God, I’ll go to church, read my Bible, go to the mission field, etc. if You will bail me out, answer my prayer, etc.” And how much of this deal-making actually involves an expectation of God’s blessing of sin?

According to Joshua 1:9-11, God’s blessing comes through obedience to His written Word. So how can people expect God blessing when they actively oppose what is clearly taught in the Bible?

 

Application: In what areas are you compromising your integrity and calling? What lies have you believed? In what ways are you attempting to make deals with God?

There is grace, forgiveness, and blessing as we submit ourselves in obedience to God. And having experienced God’s grace, forgiveness and blessing, we can — and should — extend grace and forgiveness to others who live in disobedience, helping them to line up their lives with God’s plumb line.

 

I just watched a great discussion on the importance of the covenant of marriage. It reminded me of a conversation I had between the time when Amy and I got engaged and married. My youth Sunday School teacher said that there would be times when you have to be committed to the marriage, as opposed to each other. I didn’t understand her statement. But through the years, I have come to understand what she was talking about.

The video is just over five minutes and well worth the time to watch.

 

 

What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they’ve learned from God’s Word and others along with their experience.

Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.

 

“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:9–10 ESV).

Many in Peter’s day were experiencing a great deal of suffering. The attacks on the church were delivered through the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Romans by their adversary, the devil and his demonic troops. Peter encourages his readers to be steadfast in their commitment to their Lord by humbling themselves and casting their anxieties on Him because He deeply cares about them (5:6-7).

Peter doesn’t deny that they were suffering. He didn’t tell them that they were suffering because they lacked faith. He simply acknowledged that they were, indeed suffering for a little while. It’s beautiful how he contrasts their suffering for a “little while” with God’s “eternal” glory in Christ. The all gracious God would not not send just anyone to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them — He Himself would do it.

 

Application: Are you anxious? Do you feel that God doesn’t care about you or your situation? Do you feel that you are suffering for your stand for Christ? Do you need grace? Take courage! Your hardship is only for a little while. The all-seeing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-gracious God cares deeply for you. Cast (literally “throw”) your cares onto Him, knowing that as you do, He will never let you be ultimately shaken. (Psalm 54:23)