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Fear

Image source: Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org

A few days ago, I mentioned that demonic encounters in the Bible are relatively undramatic. And then in today’s Bible reading, we see a very dramatic demonic manifestation with a boy who is thrown to the ground, his mouth foams, he grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. When Jesus casts out the demon, it cries out and convulses the boy’s body. (Mark 9:17-29) That’s pretty dramatic!

But as I said, demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Jesus is mighter than our enemy, and much more so than our enemy’s servants. There is never a question in Scripture who is stronger and has more authority! If God’s Holy Spirit lives in you — and He lives in all Believers — you have access to a greater spiritual force than your enemy.

So why were the Disciples unable to cast out this demon? Jesus says that sometimes they can only be driven out by prayer. (Mark 9:29) So how were the Disciples trying to drive out the demon? We don’t know, but obviously they weren’t using prayer.

Application

Why do we so often turn to prayer as our last resort? I mean, we may do everything we can. We may ask for other people to help. And then, when we’re at our wit’s end, we turn to prayer. Why?

It goes back to our fallen nature that we inherited from our First Parents, Adam and Eve. They chose independence from God. They chose self-reliance. They chose to do things their way. And so do we, even as Believers.

Spend a few minutes today declaring your dependence on God. Remember that Jesus knew that He could do nothing on His own initiative (John 5:19). And if Jesus had to live in submission, in dependence on God, why would you think you can?

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the overlap of This Age and The Age to Come

In today’s Bible reading, we see two witnesses given authority to prophesy/preach against the people’s sins for a period of time. During their allotted time, they are immortal; no one can harm them. At the end of the allotted time, people martyr the witnesses and leave their bodies on the street until the witnesses are resurrected on the third day after they are killed. (Note: The word we use for “witness” is the Greek word “martyr”.)

The witnesses are called home to heaven, and an earthquake on the earth follows. FINALLY, the people are terrified and glorify God. (Revelation 11:13)

Application

How long? How long does it take for God to get your attention? How quickly do you respond? How deeply do you respond?

“Oh, Believers will be raptured before the ‘end times’ begin so we don’t have to worry about the End Times!”

Not according to Jesus!

When Jesus showed up and began ministering two thousand years ago, the “end times” began. (Luke 11:20) In other words, we don’t have to wait for the “end times”. We’re living in it. The Kingdom of God is already here. The Kingdom of God has come, but it hasn’t been consummated. Right now, we’re living in the overlap of This Age and The Age to Come. For now, we live in the tension of “Already, but not yet”.

In other words, eternal life doesn’t begin when we cross over to the other side of eternity. Eternal life begins on this side of eternity. We can know God now! (John 17:3) We get to experience Kingdom of God life now!

Spend some time today thanking God for sending Jesus to initiate The Age to Come. Look for ways you can partner with God to usher in His Kingdom. Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33)

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Several years ago, one of my favorite videos that made the rounds on Facebook was the one of the little girl who told her daddy to worry about himself. As she struggled to free herself from her carseat, her daddy offered to help her, but she kept saying, “Worry about yourself!” It seemed that she would never be able to press the button and gain her freedom. But she was not going to let her daddy help. She was at the precious stage of life where she thought she could do everything herself without help from anyone else. Some of us never grow out of that stage.

Today’s Bible reading includes a little story of a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter asks what would become of John the Beloved Disciple. Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:22) In other words, Jesus tells Peter, “Worry about yourself. Don’t concern yourself with the fate of others. Make sure that you follow me.”

Why is it that we are always concerned about other people when Jesus starts “getting up in our business”? Just when He begins to answer our prayer to, “Search me, O God” (Psalm 139:23), we shift the attention off ourselves and onto someone else. Why do we do that?

I think it has to do with the fact that we know deep down that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24) As much as we want to claim that we love God with all that we are, deep inside, I think we’re afraid of God. Some of that fear can be good. We must always be on guard, lest we become too familiar with God and forget that He is to be respected. He is to be feared. He is awe-inspiring. I recently began reading a book, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. It’s important to remember that although God is kind, He is not tame.[1]

Application

How comfortable are you with God? It’s important to see Him as a Friend. But He is so much more than a friend. And we must always remember that God is not like us, though we are like Him. We can never be buddy-buddy with God because He is so beyond us and so beyond our comprehension.

Spend some time today praising God for His greatness and awesomeness. Read through Bible passages like Psalm 8, reflecting on how the infinite God has revealed Himself to finite humanity.

If you’d like to read more about having a healthy respect, a healthy awe for God, take a look at the book I mentioned above. Admittedly, that book is a very deep read. A couple of books that are a little more approachable are Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck and Awe: Why it Matters in All We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp.

[1] Hat tip to CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, the Fawn tells Lucy that Aslan is a very good lion, but he is not tame.

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Hatred

In today’s Bible reading, John offers the comforting words that haters are going to hate Believers. Gee, thanks John! You sound just like Job’s encouraging friends!

But hould we really expect anything else from lost people? Lost people are going to act like lost people! Besides, if they hated Jesus, why would they feel different about His followers? (Matthew 10:22–25) They won’t.

Application

If haters are going to hate, why should Believers even deal with the fear of man? If they’re going to hate you, why try to please them? Why try to curry their favor?

Now, I’m not saying that we should return hate for hate. Quite the opposite. The New Testament consistently teaches that Believers are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Peter tells the persecuted church not to pay back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

And Paul reminds the Romans, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 CSB)

There’s nothing you can do to stop them from hating you and your Lord. But do everything you can to live in peace with everyone and pray for your haters. Because haters are going to hate.

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Divine Wisdom

Picking up from yesterday, in today’s Bible reading, I don’t think Paul was taking a jab at Apollos, but he highlights his goal in preaching the gospel to the Corinthians. He didn’t want to come in his own strength and wisdom. He didn’t want to come with flowery speech. He said he would rather come in humility in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s what he did.

In our study on the Kingdom of God in church, we saw that God’s Kingdom doesn’t look like one would expect it to look like. God’s wisdom is similar.

we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (CSB)

Paul says that unless God had revealed this hidden wisdom, no one would ever know it. (1 Corinthians 2:10) And reading through this section (1 Corinthians 2:6-16), it sounds like something you’d see in the Book of Hebrews where the author demonstrates how everything now is so much better than it was under the Old Covenant.

Paul says, as great as worldly wisdom is, God’s wisdom is far superior because God has hidden it until now. God has revealed — and has freely given to His kids — spiritual wisdom from the very mind of God. And not only that, but we have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Application

I think the more I know of God, the more I need to know — and the more I feel that I don’t know Him. That’s the way it is when you’re trying to comprehend the Infinite when you’re so finite. But the good thing is, God welcomes our questions. In fact, He’s glorified in our searching out His hidden wisdom. (Proverbs 25:2)

I once heard wisdom defined as applied knowledge. Not knowledge itself, but applied knowledge. We know that the fear of God is the beginning of both wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).

You might want to try this:
There are thirty-one days in most months and there are thirty-one Proverbs, one for each day. Today is August 1. Read through Proverbs 1. What does that chapter tell you about wisdom? Ask God what He wants you to do about what you read. In other words, how can you apply the knowledge you gain from Proverbs 1?

Each day this month, read that date’s Proverb and ask God to show you something new, something that He wants you to apply for that day.

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