Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Futility

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
Hebrews 10:11


Does your life ever feel like an exercise in futility? Do you ever wonder why God allows you to stay stuck in your station in life with seemingly no hope of escape? Consider the Old Testament priests. Stunningly, the Bible tells us that a faithful priest under the old covenant was doomed to spend their life, day after day, offering the same sacrifices for sin over and over again that could never actually atone for sin. From a human standpoint this is the very definition of an exercise in futility. What a waste of time! But it wasn't. Even if the priests didn't know it, every single sacrifice offered in the Old Testament served a higher purpose than atoning for sin. Every sacrifice pointed forward to Jesus. So the priests didn't spend their lives offering pointless sacrifices, they spent their lives pointing forward to that more excellent sacrifice, Jesus. He offered a single sacrifice for sins by which we have been sanctified once for all (Hebrews 10:10, 12).

So what at first glance appears to be pointless is actually a beautiful reminder of what we are all supposed to do. We point to Jesus with our lives. Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, make sure your response points people to Jesus. You can be sure that no matter how great or how terrible your life is, God has allowed you to be in the exact place you are in so that you might point others to Him by your response. God appoints some to thrive that the world may see He is good. He appoints some to poverty so His goodness can be shown in providing for them. Some suffer that the world may see His tenderness and His power to rescue. Some are called to singleness so they can spend more time pointing others to Jesus. Others are called to families so they can raise up the next generation for Jesus.

Whatever circumstances God has put you in, He has put you there to point to Jesus. So worry less about why God has allowed certain things in your life. You'll probably never be able to answer that question anyway. Instead, focus on how you are pointing others to Jesus in your circumstances, through your circumstances or even in spite of your circumstances.

Father, whatever my situation, help me point to Jesus with my life!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Divine Interest Rates

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
  will himself call out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:13

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
  and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 19:17


Some time ago I saw a picture of a homeless child in India sitting on the side of the street begging. The child was very small, perhaps four or five. Far too young to be able to fend for himself in any situation, let alone on the street. The caption on the picture spoke of people walking past the boy and ignoring him. It impacted me deeply. I couldn't imagine walking past a small, hungry child who was alone on the streets and doing nothing to help him. I wanted to run over and scoop that child up and take him home with me. What could cause people to grow so cold and unempathizing as to offer no help?

Yet, as I read Proverbs 21:13 I feel a tinge of guilt. I haven't ignored street children sitting at my feet,but haven't I ignored the cries of the poor? In today's world we all have a front row seat to suffering. We've all seen the commercials. We've heard about the ministries and the need. There is desperate need and more good ministries meeting that need in the name of Jesus than you or I could ever provide for on our own. There are orphans, hungry families, the ill, those without the gospel, those without the Bible, those who are persecuted for their faith, those who are forced into slavery or sex-slavery, the homeless, the disabled, and many, many more. It's emotionally exhausting and overwhelming to think about. How should I go about determining which ministry to give to, or how much to give, or (even harder) how much I should keep for myself and my family? We must be careful to avoid allowing our hearts to become hardened to the cries of the poor. God promises to punish those who ignore the need around them. He promises to soften their demeanor by letting them experience need for themselves. Help me, Father, not to be guilty of this great sin. 

But perhaps a little motivation toward righteousness will help too. Consider Proverbs 19:17. In it God promises to bless those who help the poor. Far from being ashamed to associate with poor people, God equates Himself with them. He says that when we give to the poor it's like we are helping Him. In fact, we can give money to the poor in confidence that it's exactly what God wants to bless them with. He promises to view it as a loan and pay us back. Now what kind of interest do you think God pays on His loans? I don't know but I'd be willing to bet that He always repays His debts.

So check your ears today and make sure they are still wide open to hear the cry of the needy. We all have to keep some money back for our own family, but make sure you are giving sacrificially to the opportunities God has placed in your path. Trust me, He'll pay you back. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Psalm 73- Selected Reading

Only Scripture today. 

Psalm 73:2-5 & 12-28
But as for me, my feet almost slipped;
my steps nearly went astray.
For I envied the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have an easy time until they die,
and their bodies are well fed.
They are not in trouble like others;
they are not afflicted like most people...
Look at them—the wicked!
They are always at ease,
and they increase their wealth.
Did I purify my heart
and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?
For I am afflicted all day long
and punished every morning.
If I had decided to say these things aloud,
I would have betrayed Your people.
When I tried to understand all this,
it seemed hopeless
until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.
Indeed, You put them in slippery places;
You make them fall into ruin.
How suddenly they become a desolation!
They come to an end, swept away by terrors.
Like one waking from a dream,
Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.
When I became embittered
and my innermost being was wounded,
I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward You.
Yet I am always with You;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will take me up in glory.
Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
Those far from You will certainly perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Plusses and Minuses

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
Romans 6:20-21


Occasionally, as I drive around Nashville, I will see a homeless person with a dog on the side of the road asking for money. This always leaves me with very conflicted feelings. On the one hand, I'm happy that this dog can meet some real needs in his owner's life. A dog can help keep him safe and warm at night. It serves as a much needed companion. On the other hand, that dog may just be the one thing anchoring its owner to homelessness. I don't think a person can stay overnight at the mission with a pet. It would be near impossible to go through a jobs program or even get a job, because he wouldn't have anywhere to put his dog while he was working. It pains me to think of having to be in this position where I would have to choose between my pet and opportunities to get back on my feet again. This dog may be the only lifeline this individual has left, their only emotional support in this world, and it may at the very same time be preventing him from getting off the streets. What a terrible position to be in. 

The above verses make me think of this, because I think our sin operates the same way for many of us. Sin works its way deep into our lives because we are convinced that it meets a real need, even if it does so while creating other problems. Maybe you get drunk because it's the only way you know to numb the pain. Or maybe you are sexually promiscuous because it makes you feel loved and happy, for at least a little while. Maybe you turn to pornography because it helps you meets your sexual desires. But I challenge you to take stock of the costs of the sins you are caught up in. When you really look at it, are they worth it? 

I know I am asking you to let go of a behavior that just may be the only thing keeping you hanging on, but it also might be the one thing holding you back. The truth is that no matter what side benefit sin brings into your life it ALWAYS results in death. Sin always brings pain, dysfunction, difficulty, and separation from God. I guarantee that it's hurting you more than it's helping. So why not let go of  your sin coping mechanism and let God take a crack at your problems instead.