Agreed

Day 232

Prayer for the day

Love the LORD, all you who worship him; the LORD protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 107-109, 1 Corinthians 4

“He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

Paul discusses a life of integrity when he speaks to the church at Corinth. He says that Timothy’s job is to remind all of the people there that Paul’s life and way of life in faith matches what he preaches everywhere.

This seems a simple thing: live the way you preach. However, it has to be one of the most difficult things to live out. Life is tough, and living a life of integrity is equally difficult.

The life of integrity requires a few things: it requires that we preach the truth, and it requires that we live the truth. It requires that what we preach and what we do always, ALWAYS, match.

The Psalmist has a similar concern for the people of Israel. The people of Israel regularly viewed themselves as the righteous ones, the ones who were favoured by God. What the Psalmist exhorts them to do is to live according to the strictures and statues God has put in place. To help them do that, the Psalmist reminds them of all the times this has not happened. He reminds them of the times they have failed God, rejected God, and given God a reason to be displeased with them.

Between Paul and the Psalmist, we learn from these passages that God desires people who live according to what God says, and desires people who speak according to what God says. He desires people who match their actions to the words they say, and who match the words they say to the God they serve.

Let us be people of integrity.

Milk and Meat

Day 231

Prayer for the day

I will give thanks for what you have done and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 105-106, 1 Corinthians 3

If you want to say anything about Paul, you should say he’s blunt. Paul doesn’t pull any punches when he speaks to the church in Corinth. No one likes to be told that they’re immature, that they really aren’t as great as they think they are.

However, Paul doesn’t really seem to care what the Corinthians like. He simply tells them what they need to hear. And what they need to hear is that they’re not who they think they are.

Paul levels a criticism at the Christians in Corinth, telling them that he tried to give them spiritual meat, but they couldn’t handle it. Their maturity was seriously lacking, and so they were unable to take what Paul was trying to teach them. Instead Paul had to give them spiritual milk.

They had to be spoon-fed spiritual milk because they didn’t understand the more mature teaching Paul had offered. This immaturity was manifest in many ways, but particularly in their inability to treat one another with respect and care. They were also unable to discern the difference between following Christ and following Paul or Apollos. And in these two things, Paul has serious concern.

The Psalmist also shows some concern for his people and their maturity. The Psalmist feels the need to regularly re-teach Israel her history because it’s so easy to forget history. They constantly need to be reminded of what God has done for them because they are so forgetful. They have to be reminded regularly that God has saved them time and time again. They need to be reminded that they are God’s people. They need to be reminded that God has given them extraordinary things, done amazing things for them, and they have failed God so regularly. They need to learn to grow up.

Don’t we all?

The Spirit

Day 230

Prayer for the day

Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 103-104, 1 Corinthians 2

How can we be wise? How can we be strong? How can we forge ahead in life in the wisdom of God?

The answer, says Paul and says the Psalmist, is to be filled by the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be enlivened and given wisdom and discernment by the Holy Spirit, is to see the mind of God in how it applies to life here on earth.

To be filled with the Spirit is not necessarily the speaking in tongues, flipping around on the ground, hands in the air business that it has been portrayed to be. The scriptures say much about the Spirit and the Spirit’s role in the life of the believer, but most of those statements have to do with the fruit that is produced in the believer rather than the signs of that Spirit.

And what does this fruit look like? The believer who is filled with the Spirit has the things of God revealed to her. The believer filled with the Spirit is wise, but not wise like the world thinks. The believer filled with the Spirit is wise in the things of God. They will understand the things of God and they will discern the things of God.

Not only will the Spirit-filled believer be able to discern the things of God, the Spirit-filled believer will be able to judge things, believe things, and test things that are or are not of God. In short, the Spirit-filled believer will have the Spirit of God living in him, and so will no longer think only his own thoughts, but be privy to the thoughts of the Most High.

Be filled.

Weak and Foolish

Day 229

Prayer for the day

Sing with joy to God our strength and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 100-102, 1 Corinthians 1

Life is full of sorrow. Life is full of pain. Whether we’re rich or poor, whether we’re married or single, whether we’re loved or unloved, each of us recognizes that not everything will be roses. Life will be difficult.

It is easy to become disenchanted with the idea of God, someone who will care for those who are downcast and downtrodden. It’s easy to disbelieve in a God who is supposed to care for us when we’re in rough shape.

Yet both Paul and the Psalmist seem to believe that not only does God care for the weak and the sorrowful, not only does God desperately love those who are downtrodden, but God actually shows his greatness and power through weakness, and his wisdom through our foolishness.

How does this work? How is it that we can be weak and God can use that weakness as strength? How is that we can be stupid and foolish and God can use that to demonstrate his own wisdom as well as confounding the wisdom of those who would deem themselves wise?

It happens when God uses weak vessels to do great things. It happens when silly and foolish people follow God because they’re not so busy trying to impress everyone else with their wisdom. It happens when all who are weak and foolish surrender themselves to the one who is strong and wise, and when they do so, they allow God to be who God is, and to act through them to stymie the strength and wisdom of those who believe themselves wise and strong.

It is extraordinary that in the midst of our pain, sorrow, and foolishness, God can demonstrate his power and care to us and through us.

Let us praise him together!

The LORD Reigns

Day 228

Prayer for the day

Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 97-99, Romans 16

This YHWH God is in charge. YHWH is the King, YHWH is the ruler, and He is God.

God as ruler causes even the earth to rejoice. Nature itself enjoys the rule of God, responds to the rule of God, and worships God because of his rule. God’s care for his creation engenders extraordinary joy and gratitude.

God’s rule is exemplified in many, many ways. One of the clearest ways is in the care for his creation and his people. The Psalmist claims that the reign of God makes his salvation known. The Psalmist claims that the reign of God is total and complete. The reign of God is not something theoretical. God is actually ruling, actually in charge. God actually cares for his people, his creation, his beloved created.

God’s rule is equally exemplified by the good works of the people who serve him. Paul has a lot to say about the glory of God exemplified in the people of God. He is asks the Romans to thank and greet an entire group of godly workers because of their work which reflects the rule of God among people.

The rule of God is clearly seen when we look at what the people Paul mentions have done. We see the rule of God in the inclusion of men and women, Jews and Gentiles. We see the rule of God in the way that these people give of themselves, selfless and sacrificial.

The rule of God is something that doesn’t look like the King ruthlessly ruling his subjects. The rule of God doesn’t look like the King taxing his people to death.

The rule of God looks like the earth of God and the people of God gladly and voluntarily worshipping the God who made them. The rule of God looks like the people of God and the creation of God enjoying the goodness of God and gladly working with him.

Let’s enjoy together.

The Nations

Day 227

Prayer for the day

Save me, O God, by your Name; in your might, defend my cause. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 94-96, Romans 15:14-33

Most of us are easily convinced that God loves us. What’s far more difficult is believing that God loves other people.

We find it easy to believe that God cares for people who try to be good. We think it’s nice to be the chosen. We think it’s great to be “in.”

But we don’t like to think that God’s love extends to those who are “out.” We don’t like to think that God’s love is something bigger than us, because it makes us think we’re really special. It makes us feel like we’re the ones who are important.

Feeling important, however, isn’t on either the Psalmist’s or the Apostle’s list. Instead of feeling important, both of them recognize the magnanimous love of God extends far beyond their wildest imaginations.

The Psalmist calls on the people of Israel to make God’s goodness known to the nations. This goes directly against the feeling of specialness. The people are special, it’s true, but they’re special because they’ve been chosen to be God’s mouthpiece to the nations. The people of Israel are special because God chose them to be the exemplars of his goodness. They were supposed to spread his love across the globe.

Paul was called by God to do exactly the same thing. He was called to move the love of God beyond the Jewish people to whom he belonged, to preach the love and gospel of God to the Gentiles, to the people who were “not chosen” yet who had been chosen by God to receive his love and care.

Both the Psalmist and Paul had the amazing privilege of bearing witness to at ruth greater than themselves: the gospel of God is bigger than nationality, bigger than skin color or religious affection. The love of God is enormous!

Filled

Day 226

Prayer for the day

I will call upon the LORD, and so shall I be saved from my enemies.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 91-93, Romans 15:1-13

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Paul finishes a long section of the letter to the Romans with this short benediction (a good word!). The preceding verses and chapters have outlined for the Roman Christians how they ought to treat one another, not as annoyances, not as burdens to be borne, but as blessings to be rejoiced over. Paul makes it clear that caring for the spiritual well-being of fellow Christians is paramount in the life Christ gives to his followers.

Treating one another this way, ensuring that Christ gets all the glory and that our actions are in line with his actions on earth, means that we get filled not with a joy that is self-generated, nor that is fleeting or externally motivated; we get filled with the joy that comes from trusting that God’s pleasure is better than our own, and that God’s pleasure will actually increase our own. As we experience the joy that comes from following Christ, we’re filled with the hope that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. We’re filled with hope. We’re filled with joy.

The Psalmist knows this hope and this joy. He has seen the good works of God, the deliverance that God gives. He has seen these works, and since he’s seen these works, he is filled with joy.

His response is worship, praise, glory! He responds to the goodness of God and he is filled with the joy and hope of God, and praises and worships God.

Have you been filled? Have you seen joy and hope? If so, have you worshipped? Have you praised?

Ultimate Judge

Day 225

Prayer for the day

Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 89-90, Romans 14

It’s hard for us to think of God as the ultimate Judge. It’s hard for us to think of God as directing the destiny of our souls based on our life, actions, and acceptance. What’s much easier to do is judge each other.

Paul’s letter to the Romans is extraordinarily complex, theologically, but there are some times when the veil lifts and Paul is very blunt. Romans 14 is one of those passages. Paul’s care for his hearers (readers) is evident in the letter, and it’s quite obvious that there was some trouble brewing in Rome.

Believers were evidently judging one another for what they were eating and drinking. Some believed that what was being eaten was sinful, while some believed that it was not.

This disagreement led to sides calling one another all sorts of nasty names and probably disparaging one another’s salvation etc. In the midst of this comes the letter from Paul, which clearly states that some sins are determined more in the heart of the sinner than from the actual content of the act performed or omitted. The judgement we offer, then, ought to be judgement on our own actions, rather than on the actions of others, because, in the end, God is the ultimate Judge. God is the one who will determine who is righteous and who is not.

The Psalmists certainly knew this God. They knew that God was and is the ultimate Judge, and that any determination of righteousness or wickedness will ultimately fall to God, rather than to human judgement.

The Psalmists and Paul both clearly delineate an understanding of God that leaves no room for any other Judge. Thanks be to God that He is the truly gracious, truly just Judge.

Wake Up!

Day 224

Prayer for the day

You, O LORD, are a shield about me; you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 87-88, Romans 13

Sometimes reading the Psalms can be depressing. Many of them extoll the glory and honour of God. Many of them rejoice in the good work of the God, YHWH, whom Israel serves. And some, like Psalm 88, are just downright depressing.

The Psalmist presents us with a litany of woes, a laundry list of evil that has befallen him, and he implores God to intercede, to intervene, to just show up and do something! You can almost hear the hopeful pleading in his voice. He believes God will help, trusts that God will help, but despairs that he may be wrong!

The Psalmist is in real pain and doubt, and in the midst of pain and doubt, he is crying out that God would save him.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul cautions Christians in Rome against wasting their lives in the service of fleshly desires, but instead, to wake up and prepare for the coming of the Lord. One can almost hear the Apostle pleading with the people of Rome to get out of bed and pay attention to what is happening instead of giving themselves over to self-indulgence and wickedness. At least, we think, the Psalmist is crying out to God! The people Paul is speaking to are seduced by easy living, by sinful lifestyles, and so forget all about the incredible saving grace that God offers each of them.

Throughout our lives, we’ll likely live in both arenas from time to time. There will be times when you just don’t see the presence of God and despair at his distance. Cry out. There will be times when you will be tempted to forget God and indulge. Cry out. The response in both situations ought to be the same: rely on the God who saves. Wake up and live your life for Christ! All else is useless.

Non-Conformist

Day 223

Prayer for the day

I call aloud upon the LORD, and he answers me from his holy hill; I lie down and go to sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 84-86, Romans 12

Romans 12 is one of my favorite passages in all of the scriptures. The beginning of the chapter speaks so clearly about the temptation all of us face, and it speaks also to the way that the temptation can be overcome. Most of us, all of us I would wager, are desirous of conformity. We wish we could be like everyone else.

Conformity is often scoffed at, but it’s incredibly powerful. It gives us a sense of connection and a sense of identity. It tells us who we are and to whom we belong. It feels great to be part of something, part of a group or clique or niche.

Yet Paul cautions the Romans to be careful who they conform to. He tells them to reject conformity to the way the world does things. He says this is not the way the one who bows to Christ is supposed to act. Reject this temptation, says Paul, and conform to the image of Jesus. Do not conform to the world, BE TRANSFORMED! And how are we transformed?

Our minds are renewed. They are properly ordered and remade so that we are able to apprehend, test, and approve the will of God.

The Psalmist recognizes the same dangers, the same temptations, and the same solution. “Teach me your ways,” says David, seeking to be transformed by God so that he will be able to see the desires, cares, and loves of God, and that he may be able to join in with those things.

The renewal of the mind is not simply study, nor is it a magic lobotomy or brain transplant. It is, according to the scriptures, nothing less than allowing God to reorder our thoughts and priorities, giving up control of our minds to allow the mind of God to be in control.

It is a blessing beyond measure!