A Lamp for My Feet

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Psalm 119 is a beautiful, extended meditation on God’s word. In 119:105, the Psalm says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

Followers of Jesus are an in-between people. We are the people of God’s eternal Kingdom living in the world of now. We are citizens of heaven dwelling in the kingdoms of the earth. We are ambassadors, as Paul famously wrote the Corinthians, representing Jesus and the light of his goodness in a world darkened by sin.

The Bible is a life guide. It’s God’s story about Jesus and our relationship to him. It guides and directs us in how to live as in-betweeners, people of hope in a world that is often so hopeless.

When the Psalm tells us that God’s word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, it helps us to see the Bible’s role in our day to day lives.

When we follow Jesus, we find ourselves on a path that leads to the Eternal Kingdom, a joyful forever. We know where we began through hearing the Gospel, trusting in Jesus, and walking away from a life of rebellion against God. We know the end of this life’s journey. Either we will die or Jesus will return. Even if the former, “to be away from the body” (at least “away” until the resurrection) is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). And, while God doesn’t give us many details, we know that eternal life is filled with unhindered joy and peace in the presence of Jesus.

But we don’t always know the twists and turns of the path as we follow Jesus. As Psalm 23 states, sometimes we face dark valleys and sometimes we find quiet pastures beside still waters.

God does not intend the Bible to provide every detail of life between the here and there. The Bible also doesn’t definitively answer every question we face. The Bible does speak clearly on many things, especially in regard to Christ-like behavior and character among his people. When it does speak clearly, we should be quick to obey.

Yet, in the places it doesn’t and in the things it does not address, it’s wisdom and the spirit of love it produces within us is to guide us.

In life, sometimes we see clearly and the road ahead is bright. In life, sometimes we are surrounded by darkness and we must weigh each step with consideration. The Bible is our guide. It leads us to Jesus and it leads us faithfully with Jesus until we stand in the presence of Jesus.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The Spirit-filled Life

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

In Acts 2, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, he fulfilled his promise by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell within his followers. Everyone who turns to Jesus in faith, repenting from a life of sin, receives the Spirit–God himself dwelling within us.

The Holy Spirit, as God, shares every attribute of the Father and the Son. He is the God who was intimately involved in creation and redemption, and every miraculous act throughout history.

The all-powerful, all-wise God resides in every Christian. So, what does a life that is filled with the Spirit look like?

From Paul’s description, it’s actually quite ordinary but in an extraordinary way.

In Ephesians 5:18-21, Paul wrote not to be drunk on wine, but:

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father int he name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

This is ordinary, because it defines everyday life and the regular rhythms of our weeks. We’re to gather to worship, encouraging one another and praising God with our songs. We’re to be people of thankfulness, all the more as we understand the depths of the grace of God. We’re to love and serve one another and seek each other’s best. This should be Christian normalcy.

Yet, this is ordinary in an extraordinary way, because we will fail to do it without the Spirit’s help.

We are all tempted to busyness and the “tyranny of the urgent” as it is sometimes called. We must be intentional in our increasingly busy world to set aside time to worship together as a church family. It is the Spirit who works in our hearts to long to make this a priority during our week.

We are prone to be thankful when things go well. But it’s much more difficult to give thanks “always and for everything.” The Spirit, however, illumines our hearts and minds through God’s word to be ever-thankful for our salvation and eternal hope during the difficult times in life. It’s the Spirit who reminds us that the glories to come through Christ far out weigh any momentary suffering and affliction in this life.

We are also tempted to pride and individualism. We don’t want to submit and at times we’d rather be served than serve. The Spirit, however, binds our hearts together in the love of Christ and heightens our compassion for those who hurt. He helps us to lay aside ourselves that we might lift up and build up those around us.

So, in a sense, Paul’s description is ordinary. Yet it is also far from it. The Spirit grows us to overcome the temptations of selfish pride and to live daily filled with his power.

All scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

Fight to Finish Well

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been… Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. ~ 1 Kings 11:4-6

When you think of King Solomon, you probably think of the wisest man who ever lived. When he first became king, God told him to ask for anything he wanted. Instead of riches or the death of his enemies, Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people well. God granted him this request and also gave Solomon wealth and prosperity.

Solomon, during his reign, built a temple for the Lord, just as God had promised David. He also wrote countless proverbs, many of which stand today as inspired Scripture.

Yet, when it came to the end of his life, Solomon did not finish well. During his reign, he married 700 women and had 300 concubines. Many of these women, it seemed, were included in political pacts with foreign governments. That meant, that many came from lands that worshiped false gods and followed misguided religions.

Instead of being faithful to God, Solomon began to worship false gods with his wives. He even built “high places” where sacrifices could be made.

The wisest man who had ever lived, because he was not careful to guard his own heart and remain faithful to God, failed to end life well. I pray that it is not said of me or you they did evil in the Lord’s sight.

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul spoke of the need to finish well. He described it as fighting the good fight and finishing the race. If we’re going to be like Paul instead of Solomon and finish well, then we will have to fight. We have to fight temptations and stubborn sins. We have to fight laziness in our spiritual walk and the tendency to drift. We have to put in the effort to build strong relationships with other followers of Jesus who can help keep us focused. We have to fight busyness and the “tyranny of the urgent” to make time to be in God’s word, to pray, and to worship on our own and with our churches.

May we fight the good fight. May our hearts stay focused. May we be faithful until the end.

Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Truly Alive

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

In a sense, every person is a “dead man walking.” Death is an inevitable part of the human experience. Yet, there is a spiritual side to this as well. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Or, as he said elsewhere, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, mankind was not meant to experience death. Within the Garden was the Tree of Life, representing our endless being. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were banished from the Garden, the way to the Tree was blocked.

Yet, when you get to the end of the present and the beginning of eternity in the final pages of Revelation, the Tree has returned to give life and to heal the nations.

When we come to Christ, Paul wrote, we are made alive (Ephesians 1:4-5). To know Jesus is to no longer be a “dead man walking” but to have passed from death to life. In John 11, Jesus went so far to say that even if we die, we still live.

To know and follow Jesus is to become truly alive. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). To be alive in Jesus is to be with him and be lavished with the “immeasurable riches of his grace” throughout eternity (Ephesians 2:6-7). To be alive in Jesus is also to be a different person today while we wait for the riches of eternity–to be people of truth, reconciliation, peace, generosity, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, encouragement, and things like these (4:20-5:5).

To be truly alive in Jesus is to live the realities of eternity to our fullest in our lives today. If we are truly alive, let us live that life to the fullest.

All scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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A Taste of Glory

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

In Mark 9, Jesus took the inner circle of the apostles–Peter, James, and John–upon a mountain. While there, his appearance changed, so even “his clothes became dazzling–extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them.” In this transformation, Elijah and Moses appeared alongside Jesus, and the Father spoke from heaven: “This is my beloved son, listen to him!”

The three disciples stood dumbfounded.

In that moment, those three received a taste of glory, few others have experienced this side of heaven (perhaps, closest, would be Moses himself when he asked to see God’s glory in Exodus).

What they learned and what we are reminded of is that Jesus of Nazareth walked the earth as no ordinary man. He might have had the DNA of Mary and he might have been known as the carpenter’s son, but he was still the Son of God.

The Father calling Jesus beloved shows his delight in him. In his book Rejoicing in Christ, Michael Reeves states that Jesus being called the “beloved Son” means “there is nothing more precious to the Father than him.” For us, then, “there cannot be any blessing higher than him or anything better than him… He is the treasure of the Father, shared with us.” [1]

To taste the glory of Christ is to sample the greatest joy of all. Psalm 16:11 states that “in [God’s] presence is abundant joy and at [God’s] right hand are eternal pleasures.” It is Jesus himself that we find at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3).

Yet, where the disciples stood agape in that moment, we find our salvation and sanctification in beholding Jesus’ glory through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:15-18). Therefore, holding Jesus as our greatest joy, we “listen to him.” He gives us his very word to hear and obey that his joy might be in us and our joy be made complete in him (John 15:11).

Gaze upon the glory of Christ. Feast upon the goodness of his word. And find the greatest joy your heart can ever know.

All scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

[1] Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ (IVP Academic: 2015), 21.

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From Bitterness to Hope

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

The Book of Ruth tells a story of hope during a dark period in Israel’s history. We know Ruth took place “during the time of the judges” (1:1), which in itself had plenty of ups and downs. Specifically, Ruth occurred when a famine struck Israel. A man named Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons sought refuge in Moab. They migrated for a season to a foreign land seeking to survive.

While there, the two sons found wives; but then tragedy struck. All three men died.

When the famine ended, Naomi planned to return to Israel, and attempted to convince her daughters-in-law to remain behind, thinking it would be better for their future. Orpah stayed but Ruth refused.

“Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” Ruth told Naomi.

So, the two ladies went to Israel. But when they arrived, Naomi made a request of those who knew her, “Don’t call me Naomi,” which means pleasant. “Call me Mara,” which means bitter. In the society of that day, land and resources passed from one generation to the next through father and son. With them dead, Naomi felt she had no hope. This hopelessness came across in her self-given nickname.

That was just the beginning of the story, however. Turns out there was a man named Boaz, a close relative who could marry Ruth and redeem the land that belonged to Elimelech. The women concocted a plan that was guided by God’s providence. Long story, short, Boaz and Ruth married, Boaz redeemed the land, and the two had a child.

Bitterness turned to joy and hope. Even more, this child, Obed, became the father of Jesse who was the father of David, the great king of Israel whom God chose and to whom God gave promises that led ultimately to Jesus being the great Son of David.

There is a line in the book The Return of the King that states, “Everything sad will come untrue.” In the book, it actually is in the form of a question–will this be? The answer for Naomi was Yes!

But the move from bitterness to joy and hope that Naomi felt was only a small taste of what we experience through Jesus. He is the greatest Redeemer. He does not simply ensure the future of our land and family but of our lives in eternity. He gives a joy that never ceases. And when he returns, all bitterness will be no more. King Jesus forever makes the sad untrue.

All scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Sometimes You Need to Learn It More than Once

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Jesus did something astonishing in Mark 6. He fed a crowd of five thousand men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish. When the crowd finished eating, he sent his disciples to pick up the scraps and they returned with twelve baskets full–more than what they began with.

You would think that such a thing would leave a lasting impression, but two chapters later in Mark 8 we read about Jesus miraculously feeding four thousand. He told the disciples that he had compassion for the hungry crowds and wanted to feed them. The disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

It was as if they completely forgot about the miracle with the five thousand and the fact that they were in the presence of the Son of God. It’s a little surprising that we don’t read in response that Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit,” like he did with the Pharisees in 8:12

After the confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus warned the disciples to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees,” meaning their teaching. The disciples misunderstood and thought Jesus referred to the fact that they had brought no bread with them. Jesus then asked them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?” He then brought to their attention the feedings and the amount of food they collected when it was finished.

It was Jesus’ way of saying they were missing the point. Bread didn’t matter; He did. He could multiply molecules into enough bread to fill their stomachs time and time again. And it was all because of who Jesus is. The Pharisees didn’t get it and in that moment the disciples didn’t either.

This reminds us that we need to be reminded–constantly reminded. As saints-in-progress, people saved by the grace of God who are being transformed into more Christ-like people by that same grace, we need to be reminded of God’s grace and to constantly set our eyes on Jesus. Our hearts are slower to learn than we want them to be.

That is why church gatherings are so important. They remind us of the grace and power of Jesus on a regular basis as a group of rebels-turned-sons-and-daugthers feast on God’s word, cry out in prayer, and sing praises to our great Savior-King.

Scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version.