Promise #144 – Thursday May 24, 2018

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Psalm 30:5 (WEB)
For his anger is but for a moment. His favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

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May 24th One Year Bible Readings

2 Samuel 4:1-6:23 ~ John 13:31-14:14 ~ Psalm 119:17-32 ~ Proverbs 15:31-32
~ Click here to read today’s Scripture on BibleGateway.com ~ // Mobile Site Link
~ Listen to today’s Scripture on One Year Bible Online Audio, ESVBible.org: OT, NT, Psalms, Proverbs or DailyAudioBible.com (podcast) ~

Old Testament – Second Samuel chapter 4 verse 11 stood out as David said this to the 2 murderers of Ishbosheth: “Now what reward should I give the wicked men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Should I not also demand your very lives?”  Similar to the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul and reported this news to David, David was not happy with the news.  This all reminds me of the old adage that you cannot fight evil with evil – you’ll get corrupted in the process.  These 2 guys murdered an innocent man, thinking they were doing a greater good for David.  David disagreed.  Are there times in our lives where we do something wrong / bad / lie / evil for what we think might be a greater good?  Aren’t we then corrupted in the process?  Do we go from left to right in this photo below? 🙂  (sorry, couldn’t resist this silly image!  On the website where I found this image, they labeled this photo, “The Dog I bought versus the Dog I got”… 🙂

Good_evil

In Second Samuel chapter 5 David is anointed King of Israel!  Israel and Judah are now united – but they will be divided again only a short 75 years later.  Verse 7 is the first time the term Zion is used in the Bible: “But David captured the fortress of Zion, now called the City of David.”  Below is a visual of Jerusalem at about this time that David conquered it from the Jebusites – and to the right the map shows the growth of Jerusalem just 50 years later in Solomon’s time.  (1000 B.C. to 950 B.C.) We’ll come back to this visual when we get to Solomon in our readings.

Jerusalemdavidsolomon_1_1

 

In Second Samuel chapter 6 when the Ark is brought back to Jerusalem verse 14 is phenomenal to imagine: “And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly tunic.”  And David’s words in verse 21 are something for you and I to consider in our lives today – “So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the LORD.”  Are you willing to act like a fool to show your joy in God?  Have you ever danced before God with all your might?  Think you ever could?

Davidarkdancing

Bible.org’s commentary on our Second Samuel readings today titled “A Place of One’s Own” is at this link and “When God Rained on David’s Parade” is at this link.

New Testament – I love the dialogue today between Thomas and Jesus in John 14 verses 4 through 6!  Somehow I didn’t quite remember the context of Thomas’ question setting up Jesus’ profound statement in verse 6.  Beautiful.  Jesus starts us off in verse 4 – “And you know where I am going and how to get there.”” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  These last two sentences of Jesus’ we’ve probably all heard many times.  But how often have we asked Thomas’ question either to ourselves or to God or to now one in particular – “how can I know the way?”  Jesus answers this for us perfectly.  Have you ever felt in your life that you didn’t know the way? Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?

Verses 12 through 14 today are so convicting for me – because I really rarely follow this teaching (or fully believe in it?) of Jesus’ – “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it!” Do you believe that you can do the same works Jesus has done, and even greater works?  I’ll confess – I’m not so sure that I do.  I mean, it’s encouraging to think that I could, even if I don’t fully believe it.  And, yet, I believe most everything else Jesus teaches.  Why would I doubt this teaching?  Maybe it’s because I have some sort of inferiority complex – or maybe I think it would be prideful to think this.  But Jesus teaches it quite plainly!  Or…  maybe…  I haven’t really asked Jesus for the guidance and wisdom to believe this – and asked for even just this in his name.

Bible.org’s commentary on our John readings today titled “Having a Friend in High Places” is at this link.

Psalms – Wow.  Psalm 119 verse 29 is powerful: “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your law.” Do you ever lie to yourself? If you answered no, are you lying to yourself now?  🙂  I think that lying to ourselves is part of our fallen human condition.  I think we’re probably pretty good at it.  And I think that maybe the cure for this is even found in this same verse – the prayer of “give me the privilege of knowing your law.”   It is a privilege to know God’s Word.  It is a free privilege, but a privilege that I think we can often take for granted or simply ignore.  Through our study of God’s Word let us pray that we allow God to show us any area of our life where we might be lying to ourselves.  And let us allow God to redeem that area and give us the clarity of Truth.  Like this Psalmist, will you pray to God and ask Him to keep you from lying to yourself?  Will you pray this prayer often?

Proverbs – Proverbs 15 verse 32 I think is one great reason for us to be in community with others: “If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.”  I think if we are not in community with others, we can avoid criticism.  Which is just as good as rejecting criticism.  But, if we are truly in community with others – and yes, community can and should be messy really – then we will inevitably be criticized at some point and in some way by those around us in community.   But this is a good thing!  We need to listen to correction from those around us.  We need to grow in understanding.  Let us live our lives in community!

Community_group_

Worship God: Today’s readings in Second Samuel remind me of the David Crowder song “Undignified:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQeNVXY6ZIc

Will you become Undignified in dancing before God? Click here and dance!

Please join us in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 TNIV

Prayer Point: Pray that you are loving everyone you come in contact with in your life. Pray that the world will see you are a disciple of Jesus, because of your love for others. Pray that you will love others like Jesus loves you.

Comments from You & Questions of the Day:  Are you in community?  A community that will actually constructively criticize you from time to time?  And will you listen to this criticism so that you might grow in understanding? What verses or insights stand out to you in today’s readings?  Please post up by clicking on the “Comments” link below!

God bless,
Mike

p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.

p.p.s. Download a schedule of our One Year Bible readings for the year in PDF format at this link.

p.p.p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this One Year Bible Blog ministry today. Thanks!

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Where Does God Want Me to Work?

Where Does God Want Me to Work?

How do I find God’s will for my life? It’s always a pressing question on the college campus, and especially in our day of unprecedented options. Like never before, in an anomaly in world history, students loosened from their community of origin, “going off” to college, now make decisions about their future with minimal influence or limitation from their adolescent context.

Before asking, “Where is God calling me?” we would do well to first ponder, “Where has God already called me?” — not that your current callings won’t change or take a fresh direction in this formative season of life, but for a Christian, our objective calling from God always precedes our consciousness of it. If it is from him, he initiates. He makes the first move. This is true of our calling to salvation, and also true of any “vocational” assignment he gives us in the world.

Consider Three Factors

For the college student or young adult who may feel like a free agent — considering options and determining for yourself (and often by yourself) which direction to take — it’s important to acknowledge you are already moving in a direction, not standing still. You already have divine callings — as a Christian, as a church member, as a son or daughter, as a brother or sister, as a friend. And from within the matrix of those ongoing, already-active callings, you now seek God’s guidance for where to go from here.

Given, then, that you are already embedded in a context, with concrete callings, how should you go about discerning God’s direction after graduation? Or how do you find God’s will for your work-life? Christians will want to keep three important factors in view.

1. What Kind of Work Do I Desire?

First, we recognize, contrary to the suspicions that may linger in our unbelief, God is the happy God (1 Timothy 1:11), not a cosmic killjoy. In his Son, by his Spirit, he wants to shape and form our hearts to desire the work to which he’s calling us and, in some good sense, in this fallen world, actually enjoy the work.

Sanctified, Spirit-given desire is not a liability, but an asset, to finding God’s will. The New Testament is clear that God means for pastors to aspire to the work of the pastoral ministry. And we can assume, as a starting point, that God wants the same for his children working outside the church.

In 1 Peter 5:2, we find this remarkably good news about how God’s heart for our good and enduring joy stands behind his leading us vocationally. The text is about the pastoral calling, but we can see in it the God who calls us into any carefully appointed station. God wants pastors who labor “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you.” How remarkable is it that working from aspiration and delight, not obligation and duty, would be “as God would have you.” This is the kind of God we have — the desiring (not dutiful) God, who wants workers who are desiring (not dutiful) workers. He wants his people, like their pastors, to do their work “with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage” to those whom they serve (Hebrews 13:17).

So also, when the apostle Paul addresses the qualifications of pastors, he first mentions aspiration. “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1). God wants workers who want to do the work, not workers who do it simply out of a sense of duty. Behold your God, whose pattern is to take you by the heart, not twist you by the arm.

Desire, though, does not make a calling on its own. It’s a common mistake to presume that seeming God-given desire is, on its own, a “calling.” Aspiration is a vital factor to consider, but in and of itself this doesn’t amount to a calling. Two additional factors remain in the affirmation of others and the God-given opportunity.

2. Do Others Affirm This Direction?

The second question to ask, then, after the subjective one of desire, is the more objective one of ability. Have I seen evidence, small as it may be at first, that I can meet the needs of others by working in this field? And, even more important than my own self-assessment, do others who love me, and seem to be honest with me, confirm this direction? Do they think I’d be a good fit for the kind of work I’m desiring?

Here the subjective desires of our hearts meet the concrete, real-world, objective needs of others. Our vocational labors in this world, whether in Christian ministry or not, are not for existential release or our own private satisfaction, but for meeting the actual needs of others.

Our desires have their part to play, but our true “calling” is not mainly shaped by our internal heart. It is shaped by the world outside of us. We so often hear “follow your heart” and “don’t settle for anything less than your dreams” in society, and even in the church. What’s most important, contrary to what the prevailing cultural word may be, is not bringing the desires of your heart to bear on the world, but letting the real-life needs of others shape your heart.

In seeking God’s will for us vocationally, we look for where our developing aspirations match up with our developing abilities to meet the actual needs of others. Over time, we seek to cultivate a kind of dialogue (with ourselves and with others) between what we desire to do and what we find ourselves good at doing for the benefit of others. Delight in certain kinds of labor typically grows as others affirm our efforts, and we see them receiving genuine help.

3. What Doors Has God Opened?

Finally, and perhaps the most overlooked and forgotten factor in the discussions on calling, is the actual God-given, real-world open door. You may feel called, and others may affirm your abilities, but you are not yet fully called until God opens a door.

Here we glory in the truth of God’s providence, not just hypothetically but tangibly. The real world in which we live, and various options as they are presented to us, are not random or coincidental. God rules over all things — from him, through him, to him (Romans 11:36). And so as real-life options (job offers) are presented that fulfill an aspiration in us, and are confirmed by the company of others, we can take these as confirmation of God’s “calling.” Not that such a calling will never change. But for now, when your own personal sense of God’s leading, and good perspective and guidance from others, align with a real-world opportunity in the form of an actual job offer in front of you, you have a calling from God.

And we can say this calling is from him because God himself, in his hand of providence, has done the decisive work. He started the process by planting in us righteous desires to help others; and he affirmed the direction through our lived-out abilities and the affirmation of friends. Now, he confirms that sense of calling by swinging open the right door at the right time. It is finally God, not man who provides the job offer.

God not only makes overseers (Acts 20:28) and gives pastors (Ephesians 4:11–12) and sends out laborers into his global harvest (Matthew 9:37–38) and sends preachers (Romans 10:15) and sets wise managers over his household (Luke 12:42), but he makes dentists and plumbers. In his common kindness, he gives school teachers and entrepreneurs and social workers for the just and unjust. He sends executives and service workers. He gives you to the world in the service of others.

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What to Do When God Feels Absent

God promises that he will never leave you or forsake you. You can take your anxiety to him and trust him through your despair.

Watch Now

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Promise #143 – Wednesday May 23, 2018

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2 Peter 2:9 (WEB)
the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation
and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment;

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May 23rd One Year Bible Readings

2 Samuel 2:12-3:39 ~ John 13:1-30 ~ Psalm 119:1-16 ~ Proverbs 15:29-30
~ Click here to read today’s Scripture on BibleGateway.com ~ // Mobile Site Link
~ Listen to today’s Scripture on One Year Bible Online Audio, ESVBible.org: OT, NT, Psalms, Proverbs or DailyAudioBible.com (podcast) ~

Old Testament – Today’s Second Samuel readings are quite dramatic!  We start off with the beginnings of what I think you could call a civil war between Judah and Israel in chapter 2 verses 15 through 17: “So twelve men were chosen to fight from each side—twelve men of Benjamin representing Ishbosheth son of Saul, and twelve representing David. Each one grabbed his opponent by the hair and thrust his sword into the other’s side so that all of them died. So this place at Gibeon has been known ever since as the Field of Swords. A fierce battle followed that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by the forces of David.”

In chapter 3, it is interesting to see how David got so mad at Joab for killing Abner.  Understandable for many reasons – murder being the main one – but also Abner was working to bring David’s kingship to all of Israel.  Joab’s murder of Abner threatened the civil war between Judah and the rest of Israel to start up again.  To the right below is a wonderful image from an illuminated Bible from the year 1250 of David dining with Abner before the murder.  In the smaller left hand frames you can see David sending Abner back to Israel, and then in the lowest left hand frame you can see Abner stabbing Joab.

And below is an image of David mourning at Abner’s graveside as we read in 2 Samuel 3 verse 32 today: “They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside.”

Abner

Bible.org’s commentary on our Second Samuel readings today titled “Two Bald Men, Fighting over a Comb” is at this link.

New Testament – Wow.  Jesus’ teaching in John 13 verses 14 – 17 are so powerful today: “And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things–now do them! That is the path of blessing.”   Are you on the path of blessing?  What might it mean to “wash other’s feet” today?  Yes, perhaps at times it literally means wash other’s feet.  Could it mean other acts of service as well that perhaps we maybe think we are “too good for” or “above” in any way?  Jesus humbled himself to wash other’s feet.  Are you humbling yourself to serve others in ways that your ego might not like?

Washfeet

Bible.org’s commentary on our John readings today titled “Menial Service” is at this link and commentary titled “Judas” is at this link.

Psalms – Whoo-hoo!  Today we begin Psalm 119, the longest Psalm and chapter in the Bible! This Psalm is a beautiful meditation on God’s Word and how it helps us stay pure and grow in faith. Almost every verse in this Psalm mentions God’s Word.  I pray that this Psalm is encouraging to you as you read through the One Year Bible!

Today in Psalm 119 verse 11 we read: “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Have you hidden God’s word in your heart? So that you might not sin against God? Do you realize that all sin is indeed a sin against God? Are you memorizing Scripture on a regular basis? And, more importantly, reflecting on Scripture? Check out this link for some great free online resources to help you memorize Scripture – http://www.memoryverses.org/

Proverbs – Proverbs 15 verse 30 today teaches us: “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”  This is a great reminder to spread good cheer to others and to not hesitate in sharing good news with others whenever possible. It brings joy to the heart and health to the bones!  And, well, no, I don’t think this Proverb is talking about this kind of healthy bone below…  🙂

Worship God: Today’s readings in John remind me of the Chris Tomlin song “I will Rise:”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKRF8UihM5s

Will you Rise when Jesus calls your name? Click here to Rise!

Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 NIV

Prayer Point: Pray that you are memorizing and meditating Scripture on a regular basis. Pray that you will not sin against God because of His Word and Spirit dwelling within you.

Comments from You & Questions of the Day:  What verses or insights stand out to you in today’s readings?  Please post up by clicking on the “Comments” link below!

God bless,
Mike

p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.

p.p.s. Download a schedule of our One Year Bible readings for the year in PDF format at this link.

p.p.p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this One Year Bible Blog ministry today. Thanks!

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Why Satan Might Keep You from Porn

Why Satan Might Keep You from Porn

My Dear Globdrop,

I admit to being pleasantly surprised by your last letter. It appears that you have finally begun to learn the art of discretion. The bit about poking your patient with quiet observations regarding his reeking roommate, his food-chomping best friend, and his saliva-spraying, close-talking employer — this is precisely the kind of work I expect from you. Never underestimate, dear nephew, the effect that annoyances can play in conquering a human soul.

Now, although you have sidestepped several blunders, you still have more maturing to do. This is evident in the question you posed at the end of your letter, How do you lure the pup back to his sexual vomit? Nephew, you’ve skipped a step. Substitute the “how do I” for “should I” and you’ll find yourself on the right track.

It is true that we have capitalized on the pleasure the Enemy has built into sexual activity. Even so, I advise you to keep your particular man from pornography — at least for the time being. It is time to advance in your tempting. Let me explain.

So far, you have kept to your training: you’ve suggested explicit images here, recalled memories of past exploits there — both of which have, to your credit, begun to weaken the patient’s resolve. You have even progressed to tempting him towards lust by provoking the feeder-sins that nourish his caged animal.

This past month alone, he has been so angry with his stepmother, so anxious about upcoming deadlines, so lazy in spiritual watchfulness, so entitled in his sense of what he expects the Enemy owes him, that he has been one sniff of his roommate away from jumping back into his old therapy. You have done well to batter him with other sins before you hand him the dagger of lust.

I commend you for your work on these points, but let us not be too hasty in pressing for the final blow. I fear that you forget that which, for a tempter, must never be forgotten: Porn is never an end in itself.

Now don’t mistake me: Seeing him grapple with his urges for weeks on end, only to bring him to his knees with the perfectly-timed temptation is one of the most gratifying fruits of our labor. And then to watch him whip himself with reminders that he is the scum of the world — all the while forgetting that nonsense about the Enemy calling him a beloved son — is delicious beyond compare.

As entertaining as this can be, you are no longer a junior tempter simply contented with your human to perform tricks — you are a soldier in his Lowness’s army. We run a butcher shop, not a circus. Your task is nothing less than to damn souls and feast upon flesh! Do not forget your unholy calling and become distracted by civilian matters. Work to please the one who enlisted you.

And he who enlisted you is not pleased by you merely getting him to look at porn, masturbate, fornicate, or even commit adultery. Some harlots will be in heaven, and many virgins will be in hell — never forget it. Their souls, Globdrop, their souls! And to get their souls, we must keep them from the Enemy. Allure him away from the opposition and get him here with either adultery or abstinence, illicit sex or celibacy. The only thing that matters is Damnation; everything else is a question of details.

So, dear nephew, you ask, what shall be done? My answer, in this situation — which is one of the hardest things for young tempters to learn — is nothing. Young lions run and roar about; seasoned lionesses watch and wait.

Pretend a truce with him. We have discovered that some vermin, bombarded so continually on the front of sexual purity, begin to confuse this battle for the war itself. They “flee from sexual immorality,” as the Enemy enjoins, but neglect to “pursue righteousness.” For them, Christianity has become little more than not indulging in sexual wrong.

After enough defeats, victory over pornography can become the only prize he will strive after anymore. And so, we give it to him, but not on the Enemy’s terms. Make him want clean glasses — not to marvel at his Master through them, but so that he can merely gratify himself at the cleanness of his lenses. Once granted this triumph, he may eventually forget his main business and feel victorious even when, after a week of ignoring the Enemy through prayerlessness and Biblelessness, he has no new sexual sin to confess at the next accountability group. These are the “victories” that step towards our bayonets.

So, dust off the forgotten artillery of abstinence and see how he responds. He may yet think the battle is won, the war complete, and his duty fulfilled once he has it. He may assume he has “overcome” because he stopped clicking the mouse, while letting larger rodents continue to burrow in his heart. He may forfeit his soul in his triumph and forget his Master in his celebration — as those nomads of old forgot theirs once they made it past their enemies into the Promised Land. Your patient may just fold up his uniform, tidy away his weapons, and wander from the Enemy’s fortress on his own. And believe me, dear nephew, we will be waiting to receive him with open arms.

Now, I am not suggesting that you cease cultivating his lusts. This would be to abandon your tanks and cannons. No, continue to tempt him towards that lingering gaze as his co-worker and those YouTube videos that — while not technically being “porn” — cause the cauldron to brew. And, by all means, tempt him to look at nudity — just keep his harem within the walls of his imagination. This way, he will be less prone to confess it to others or feel like any real repentance is required. If ever he gets convicted to do so, congratulate him that at least he isn’t looking at porn.

So, do not cavalierly fire pornographic temptations at him. Although your dart may hit its mark, the sting may awaken in him a recognition of helplessness that causes him to scurry back to the Enemy and beyond our reach. Instead, wait and watch.

He may yet wander away into one of our favorite modern virtues: independence. If this happens, he will have no patience with others who struggle, see little need for any help in his continued combat, and eventually leave the church altogether. Lust, pride; pride, lust. We win in his “victory,” and we win in his defeat.

Your Freshly Inspired Uncle,
Wormwood

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Is My Joy Essential in Glorifying God?

Is My Joy Essential in Glorifying God?

Our enjoyment of God is not only a response to God’s glory — it is the way we glorify him. Therefore, joy in God is not optional.

Listen Now

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Philippians 2:9–11: You Will Bow Before Him

You have two options when it comes to Christ: submit to him joyfully now and gain your life, or submit to him begrudgingly later and lose it.

Watch Now

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Promise #142 – Tuesday May 22, 2018

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Isaiah 61:1 (WEB)
The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is on me;
because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to those who are bound;

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