Will Judah’s headlong pursuit become ours?

We look at our land and our accomplishments and believe we are an amazing people. That’s a mistake.

Judah thought the same. By 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Judah was entering its most prosperous time. Instead of following God, however, Judah deliberately chased after every form of immorality and idolatry available to them.

God sent Jeremiah to tell Judah it was on a path to destruction. It had chased after vanity and had become empty itself (Jeremiah 2:5). The nation, which had served God in its past, thought it knew a better way. That way was not better at all.

The nation had its political and religious rulers to blame for its lack of direction. The nation’s rulers did not appeal to heaven for guidance (Jeremiah 2:8). The very people who should have used their example to steer the people toward righteousness were themselves polluted by sin and their example destroyed.

Ignorant of the scriptures, careless about God’s law and lulled into spiritual unconsciousness, Judah began a headlong pursuit toward national suicide . But, Judah had enslaved itself to sin long before Babylon ever took the nation into captivity.

God told Judah through his prophet, “Although you wash yourselves with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before me,” (Jeremiah 2:22). Sin can be disguised, but cannot be hidden.

History only repeats itself because people never learn its lessons. Judah’s story is relevant to us. Our leaders are more influenced by gain than by God. They give lip service to the Creator and then turn to chase what really matters to them. Judah tried the same and failed spectacularly. How can we imitate them and succeed?

We may try to wash our iniquity away with soap, but it is still in front of the God who knows and sees it. Much of our land is already in bondage. We just don’t see the chains. We must turn and obey God’s word before we suffer the same fate as Judah.

Like riddles?

Like riddles? Here’s a popular one:
I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all.
What am I?

You may already know the answer. It is tomorrow. It is the future. If there’s one thing I’ve heard all my life, it’s that when brethren choose preachers they are always worried about the “future,” even though it never comes and is “always to be.”

What they ought to be concerned with is today. What are we doing today to preach the gospel and save the lost? When asked that question, many of our brethren have no answer. They’re watching their congregation’s average age climb into the 60’s and their membership descend into the 30’s, and they wonder what they can do to change the trend. But, with many of them it’s always about the day that never comes, but is always to be. No one has ever seen the future, nor ever will. And yet, it is the confidence of all.

Jesus said, “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own,” (Matthew 6:34 NET).

Choose Joy

It is possible to choose to be joyful in trial and tribulation.

The usual response to trial is disappointment and/or worry. Our response to the bad things life can dish out doesn’t have to be like that. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2 ESV).

We can allow trials and tribulation to defeat us, or we can recognize them as opportunities to grow spiritually. Our response to difficult times is entirely our own choice.

In addition, trials can have an unintended effect in those who choose joy and allow the trial to help them grow spiritually. James tells us trials build endurance. Like a cross-country runner training for a contest builds an ability to run faster and farther, we can learn to use trials to make us stronger so that we may win the crown — eternal life!

Greatest compliment

People love compliments. All my wife has to say is, “what a big, strong man you are,” and I’m ready to move the world for her.

It’s only natural to like hearing positive things about yourself. Especially if they’re true.

What is the greatest compliment God ever paid a human being? “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil,” (Job 1:8 NASB).

What higher compliment is there than for the Lord God to call someone a servant (Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:14)?

 

#compliments, #servant

The righteousness that exceeds

Jesus told his disciples their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. What did he mean?

Righteousness is right doing according to the standard of God’s word (Psalm 119:160; 145:17). The Pharisees thought they were righteous —they were not— they thought they were righteous because of their ritual observance of the ceremonial law of Moses. They were, however, certainly unrighteous. The righteousness that exceeds that Jesus describes is one based on obedience to God’s word.

Today, many people don’t understand that obedience is what God wants. It is what he has always wanted. Righteousness is not “infused” in people. It is what they are because of obedience.

#obedience-to-god, #pharisees, #righteousness

Walk, keep, walk, keep

The Old Testament’s book of Psalms is famous for its patterns, parallels and precepts.

Psalm 119 is a lesson of how important it is to read, study and obey God’s commands. Turning from God’s law is the first step into sin. If we read, study and obey God’s word, we can keep ourselves from becoming enslaved to sin.

Verses one through four have an interesting pattern of “walk, keep, walk, keep” in the King James Version. The American Standard Version departs from the KJV in verse 4 when it uses “observe” instead of “keep,” but it is the same idea.

To “walk” means to follow something or someone. In the New Testament, the word is often used to describe conduct or manner of life. The word in Hebrew most often means “to follow.”

The word “keep” means to observe, guard, or kept close. All of the meanings are about the same kind of thing. When we keep God’s word we obey it. We use it to act as a guard for our lives and therefore it should be kept close to us at all times.

Verses six through eight tell us what benefits await those who walk and keep. It’s a statement of plain logic. IF we walk within and keep God’s word, THEN the benefits will be the following.

First, the inspired Psalmist tells us we will never be ashamed of ourselves. When we have the utmost respect for God’s word and obey it, there will be no behavior contrary to it. Shame comes when we abandon God’s word and then commit sin. Leaving God’s word is always rebellion.

Next, “I will praise you with uprightness of heart.” This follows because right doing depends upon right thinking and right thinking only comes from God’s word. It’s amazing how the world uses the word, “ought,” when it really disconnects right thinking and living with obeying God’s word.

Verse eight makes a promise. The Psalmist says, “I will keep your statutes.” So should we all make the same promise.

 

The Gospel’s work

Some of the most talented people are those who can tear a car motor apart, fix it, and put it back together. I certainly don’t have the talent to do anything like that. Usually, when I tear something up, it stays broken.

The gospel has the power to take broken lives, bind them up and put us on the road to spiritual health. It is:

  1. The power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16.
  2. The agent that purifies us and makes us fit and ready for God’s use, Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 5:26-27.
  3. The gospel provides us with a new birth, 1 Peter 1:22-23.
  4. The gospel makes us different and better, 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:12.

Nothing can take the place of the gospel in our lives. It’s power is greater than anything in the world.

I can’t understand how to tear a car engine apart, but thanks to the gospel’s power in my life, I can understand what a person needs to put their lives back together and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. It’s in the gospel!