The Motive Behind the Money

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

I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to one person’s jealousy of another. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:4

Money is a part of life. Without money, we can’t pay bills, buy food and clothing, or travel. In normal life, we work, we make money, we spend money, we might save a little money, and we do the same the next day.

The Bible’s view of money and wealth is neutral–it can be used for good or bad. What defines it as such is our use of it and our motive of obtaining it. In Ecclesiastes 4, Solomon, the richest man of his time, pondered the motive. He noticed that people go out and work and make money, some work even extra hard. He also noticed that many did this out of a jealousy for others. They wanted to keep up with their neighbors.

We live in a consumeristic society when it comes to money built on the very thing Solomon lamented. We work, earn, and spend so that we can have the newest best thing, or at least have what our neighbors have. Advertising firms know this. So do credit card companies.

Yet, as Solomon wrote, such an attitude is futile. Life isn’t supposed to be about keeping up with our neighbors.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul gave a better motivation for money: Use it to be generous and to enjoy life. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with buying things that we want or enjoying ourselves, so long as such things honor God and so long as it doesn’t temper our willingness to share with others.

When we have a heart of generosity, we’re not so interested in what others have so that we can go and gain the same, but we’re interested in what others lack so that, if possible, we can help them gain. Let’s seek to have that heart and motivation behind what we earn.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Pure Religion

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

God cares deeply about the poor, needy, and afflicted. Psalm 113:7-8 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap in order to seat them with nobles–with the nobles of his people.” It is no wonder, then, that God requires the same for his people.

When we speak of “religion” we speak of a system of beliefs that one holds with a sense of devotion which usually involves devotion to a deity of some kind. Religion, then, involves how we worship and how such worship impacts our lives.

Believing there is one God in three persons, Christians worship God through Jesus. We sing, pray, share, preach, and celebrate all with a focus on what God has done for us through giving Jesus his Son. Jesus even says that to have eternal life is to know the one true God and Jesus whom he sent.

Yet, if we limit our religion to the adoration of God through Jesus with no concern about other people, then we are missing the mark. In telling us to care “for the least of these,” Jesus said that as we do for them, we do for him (Matthew 25:31-46).

It is no wonder, then, that when James wrote of our practice of our religion, he defined it as such: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). Later, James will write about how true faith is a faith that works, that does good. True religion, then, is putting our faith into practice.

The world is filled with needs. We see them around us day in and day out. No one person can meet every need. God never intended that to be so outside of Jesus. Yet, we can meet the needs we see and are able to meet. We can put our faith into practice and help take care of those less fortunate than us, just as our Father in heaven raises up the poor and needy and sits them in the place of nobles.

All scriptures taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Make Known His Love

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

I will make known the Lord’s faithful love and the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, because of all the Lord has done for us–even the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, which he did for them based on his compassion and the abundance of his faithful love. ~ Isaiah 63:7

In a tweet once, a pastor named Philip Nation wrote, “Evangelism is easy: You talk to Jesus about people and you talk to people about Jesus.”

Talking to Jesus about people is prayer. We pray for people to hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, and be saved from their sins by Jesus through the gospel. When we make evangelism harder than it needs to be, our problem usually isn’t on the prayer side of things (unless we simply don’t pray for people).

Isaiah 63:7 is a model for the other side of this: Talking to people about Jesus.

We often wonder Where should I begin? What should I mention first? How should I broach the subject?

The answer is that you begin with God’s love. If we tried to list the good things that God has done for us because of his love, our hands would grow tire writing before we even scratched the surface. James says that every good thing comes from the Father. Every good person, possession, and event in our lives is a gift of God’s grace.

We begin with the fact that God is good and gives infinite goodness to those who will receive it. We begin with the realities that in his love he will make “all sad things come untrue” for those who trust him. We point to God’s goodness on display most greatly in Jesus who came and gave himself so that we, who had nothing before God, could gain everything.

We don’t have to be experts in any particular presentation to evangelize well. We simply must be willing to make God’s love known.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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What Encourages Us

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

Therefore, since we also have such a large crowd of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Life is a journey. The author of Hebrews called it a race. Perhaps like a cross country race with ups and downs, twists and turns. In this race we’re striving toward the goal, the finish line.

The thing about the race of faith: it’s not about winning. We have thousands of years of people who have faithfully sought God and followed Jesus who have gone before us and have made it to the finish. It’s not about winning but it is about finishing.

Distractions throw us off course. Sin trips us up. The devil whispers that we’ll never make it and might as well give up.

As we face these bumps and trials on the course, we have two main sources of encouragement to keep us focused. First, we have Jesus. He’s the “source and perfecter of our faith.” That is just another way of saying what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” If we have begun the race, Jesus and his Holy Spirit dwelling within us give us the strength and will to finish.

We also have the example of Jesus. Through the cross, he faced great pain and suffering but it was all for a greater joy. He knew he was accomplishing the salvation of his people. He knew that he was rescuing rebels against God and offering them the grace of becoming his brothers and sisters with whom he shares everything. He knew the joy of his family would be eternal. So, he walked through the pain and toward the joy.

We will never have to suffer like Jesus. We will not have to bear the weight of God’s wrath against countless sins. If we trust in Jesus, we will not even have to bear an ounce of the weight of God’s wrath against our sins. What he did for us is an encouragement to keep striving and keep pressing forward in order to finish life faithful to God.

Second, we have the example of all the faithful saints who have gone before us. That is Hebrews 11–the great “hall of faith,” filled with men and women who saw great highs and suffered many lows. They weren’t perfect. They needed a lot of grace. Yet, they followed God until the end.

Not only are their lives an example, but their voices throughout time are our cheering section. They have finished as we aim to do, and now tasting the joys of heaven, they want to see us there, too.

In life, run the race. Keep focused on Jesus. Hear the cheers of the crowd of saints. In the ups and downs, be encouraged. Even if you’re tired and feel like you can give no more, you will make it and the ceaseless joy to follow will be sweet.

All scriptures taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Faith Doesn’t Always Mean a Better Life (Now)

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

Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them… (Hebrews 11:36-38)

Some say faith is the key to living your best life now. If you have enough faith, they say, you God will bless you with wealth or health or longevity or family or friends or… The promises are numerous.

And sometimes people with faith in Jesus do experience great things in their present life. Hebrews 11 reminds us of the old Bible stories of how people were saved from fire or lions and how the dead were raised and children were given to barren couples in old age.

These stories are miraculous. They present the power of God working against the normal course of nature. But Hebrews 11 also reminds us there are many people who loved Jesus and were spiritual giants who suffered greatly. Truth be told, for most of us, our lives will likely fall somewhere between those two extremes.

Faith in Jesus is not a guarantee of our best life now. But as some have said, faith in Jesus guarantees an eternity where the worst of this life is the closest to hell we will ever experience and the best of this life is a minor joy compared to the joys of forever.

This is why Paul could write, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed.” (Romans 8:18)

The Bible keeps our eyes always looking forward. The best will come but the best is still yet to come. So, if you find yourself in a moment of great happiness, remember that something infinitely better is on the horizon. And if you find yourself in a moment of great pain, remember that pleasures are come which will make the memory of that pain fade into the background.

Our best life is eternal.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The God Who Comforts

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

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned… (Isaiah 40:1-2)

When God created the world, everything was good. The earth was beautiful and mankind along with it. There was no fear, no death, no pain, no sickness, no decay. God is the God of beauty and life.

When Adam and Eve listened to the voice of Satan and sin entered the world, the beauty became marred. Hints of it remain, sometimes awe-inspiring hints, but corruption and decay fill the earth. Like the one who tempts us to sin, our sin is an enemy and makes us our own worst enemies. God gives beauty and life but the influence of sinful rebellion against him steals, kills, and destroys.

In Genesis 3, God declared a curse against sin. The wound, however, was self-inflicted as we chose to rebel. God could have left us there, condemned rebels; but he chose to give us hope and salvation.

Isaiah 40 promised a day of pardon–a day ultimately found through Jesus on the cross. He became our sin, bore our guilt, took our punishment–a willing sacrifice who stepped into our death that we might have his life.

The Gospel, the good news of what Jesus did, is God’s words of comfort to us. Even if darkness still seems to rule, the Gospel reminds us that the night is almost gone and day is about to dawn. When that light comes, when Jesus returns, it will shine forever. Death will be dead. Tears wiped away. Pain no more.

Beauty and life will infuse creation once more with no hint of darkness.

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The Lord’s Supper

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

When the hour came, Jesus reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. Then he said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:14-18)

From the beginning, the Lord’s Supper or Communion has been a part of the Christian tradition. We gather together and share the bread and the cup, just as Jesus did with the Twelve at the Passover before his crucifixion.

The Supper is a rich moment in which we transition from hearing the Gospel to seeing the Gospel. We partake of the bread and the drink, acting “in remembrance of” Jesus (22:19)–the bread representing his body, broken for us; the cup representing his blood, shed for us.

Seeing the bread and the cup remind us that Jesus was broken on the cross for our sins. Eating the bread and drinking from the cup remind us of our union with Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus dwells not simply with each Christian but in each Christian. From the inside out, he shapes us with new hearts and new lives. Knowing Jesus’ words that he would not partake again until he did so in the Kingdom reminds us of our future hope. As Revelation 19 tells us, eternity kicks off with a feast, likely what Jesus had in mind.

As we see the Gospel in the Lord’s Supper, we see it’s past, present, and future implications. In the past, when Jesus shed his blood and broke his body, our sins were paid for and covered through his cross. In the present, Christ dwells in us, changing us, sanctifying us, making us more like him. In the future, we will be raised to glory and spend an eternity of joy with our Savior-King, celebrating everything he did to assure our place at his table.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.