The Value of Human Life
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Recently it was reported that the state of Virginia became the 23rd state in the United States to ban the use of the death penalty for murder or other violent crimes. Undoubtedly this is because in recent years and with the advancement of science, there have been many released from death row whose convictions were overturned due to new DNA evidence. The argument also goes that putting someone to death for the murder of someone else will not bring the victim back to life. Would it not be better to try and reform the criminal in the hopes of making him or her a more productive member of society? While the criminal justice system is not without its problems and it is certainly noble to want to reform criminals, the problem is that putting someone to death for murder is a matter of obedience to God and justice. In Genesis 9:5-6 God commands, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” God commands capital punishment for murder because all people are made in the image of God. Thus, to take the life of another human being who is the image bearer of the Creator is tantamount to cosmic treason. For this reason, the only appropriate justice for the taking of a human life is the life of the murderer. This command for the use of capital punishment is restated in Romans 13:4. The sword was used in Roman times for beheading. OK, but why talk about this in a Daily Thought? Because being made in the image of God has broader implications than just capital punishment. James says we need to be careful about how we speak to people and speak about people because “with it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (3:9). Because all people are made in the image of God, all people deserved to be treated with respect and humanely.
The Mind of Christ
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus... (Phil. 2:3-5)
The only self-description Jesus ever gave of himself is when he said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29). But what does it mean to be gentle and humble? What does that look like? These are important questions because we are talking about a man who, on several occasions, severely rebuked the religious leaders and made a whip and drove people out of the temple for violating it. So then what does it mean to be gentle and humble? If our desire it to be like Christ, to live as he lived, then we need to understand what it means for Jesus to describe himself as humble. Paul provides an answer for us in Philippians 2:3-5 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” In other words, this is what it means to have the mind of Christ, to think as Christ thought and, thus, to behave as Christ behaved. And what is that mind? He says in v.2, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility  count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Thus, humility—the humility of Christ—is not having a meek and mild and pliable personality, but rather is treating others as being more important than yourself and looking out for the interests of others before your own. And is this not what Jesus did for us? Jesus said, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
The Amazing Kindness of God
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
If you have ever taken the time to study the size of our galaxy or even just the size of our own solar system or if you have ever viewed one of those videos that zoom out from earth to our solar system to our galaxy to the outer edge of the observable universe, you begin to realize just how small we humans really are (click here for video). It can be quite a humbling experience. But what is just as amazing is the fact that God—the God who created our entire universe and all the galaxies which exist within in it—would be willing to step out of the glories of heaven and become human, to become a speck of dust in comparison to himself. David—a man who had never traveled more than 150 miles from his place of birth—was not even familiar with the size of the planet he was living on. And yet, he writes, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” By simply looking up and observing the moon and the stars and sun, David was amazed that God would care for him, that the God who spoke the universe into existence would enter into a covenant relationship with him. Little did David know that not only would God do that, but 1,000 years later God would become human and live a life of perfect obedience to his own Law and die on the cross for the sins of humans. All because he cares about us. He cares for us. Why God would do this for us—for wicked, sinful, tiny, puny, little, humans—stands as the greatest wonder in human history. But he did. And I, for one, am so incredibly grateful for God’s love and mercy and kindness and grace! For who he is and all he has done, he deserves our highest worship and praise!
Make the Most of It
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)
We live in a world where time can be easily zapped by all the various distractions which exist around us. With the invention of the smartphone, we literally walk around with mini-computers in our pockets with 24/7 access to entertainment, news, sports, social media apps and a host of other easily accessible distractions. But in Ephesians 5:15-16 we are told to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” We need to make the best use of our time because the days are evil. Because there is so much temptation in the world and so many ways for those temptations to reach us, we would be wise to limit how much time we expose ourselves to the world via TV, movies, and the internet. That is not to say that those things are inherently evil, but they can easily become addictive means of feeding our narcissistic tendencies. So also, because the world is going to hell in a handbasket, spiraling out of control, and because there are yet so many people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, then should we not spend more time reaching the world with the gospel, rather than trying to post the next viral video on Facebook? As believers we have been redeemed and placed in this world for a purpose. Let’s not spend what little precious time we have pursuing the things of this world.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 5:1-2)
While the Bible makes clear that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, there are some who take this to mean it does not matter how we live. That while in many ways and for many reasons, it is and can be wise and good to order one’s life according to scripture, it certainly is not necessary. However, scripture commands that we “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” That is, if we are children of God, then we should strive to be imitators of God. We should strive to display the character and attributes of God in our lives and in the way we interact with the world around us. This is not a suggestion, but a commandment, as the phrase “be imitators” is in the imperative mood. But scripture does not just stop with commanding us what to do but offers reasons as to why believers should strive to be imitators of God. We are then told to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In other words, just as Christ was willing to give his life as a sacrifice for us, should we not be willing to give up our lives as a sacrifice for him? Should we not be willing to surrender the way in which we live, the manner in which we spend our time? Should we not be willing to commit the whole of our lives to serving Christ, serving his Church, and reaching the lost with the gospel? We should, if we are thankful for what Christ has done for us.
They're Just Beads
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)
Kids are great! I have often thought the best part about having children is that they will teach you more about God and about yourself than you could ever learn otherwise. For example, just this morning our six-year-old daughter wanted to play with some plastic beads that she saw her older ten-year-old brother playing with. When he informed her that he really wanted to play by himself at the moment, she became upset and complained to mom. When mom informed her that her brother really just wants to play by himself right now, she had a complete meltdown. She became very upset and began crying profusely. In response, mommy tried to explain to her that “it’s not a big deal. They are just beads and she can always play with them later.” None of which was very comforting to our daughter. As I sat and witnessed, with utter amazement and bewilderment, the complete emotional breakdown of a six-year-old over plastic beads, I began to wonder how often God looks at us the same way. How often do we have complete meltdowns and emotional perturbation over life not going our way or not getting what we want, and God looks at us thinking, “Really? It’s not that big of a deal.” But to our little minds and from our finite perspective, “the world is crashing down around us! This is the most horrible experience ever!” This is not to trivialize traumatic experiences we do go through in life—the loss of a child, diagnosed with a terminal disease. Those are horrible, life-changing, experiences. But more often than not, we fret and moan and have complete meltdowns over beads. What helps us get through these “traumatic” events is to remember that when we go through these difficult times in life, these disappoints or apparent setbacks, we know that God is producing steadfastness in us and, thus, we should count it all joy.
Holding Your Plans Loosely
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)
This week has been a week of surprises and canceled plans due to extreme cold weather in central Texas. Whatever you were planning to do this past week got canceled or re-arranged. I once heard it said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” This week has been incredibly true of that. No matter what you were planning or what you thought your week was going to look like, nothing went according to plan. It’s good to know that while God is in control of everything and all things happen according to the sovereign will of God, when it comes to God’s people, everything he does is for us. While Jeremiah 29:11 was originally written to the Israelites living in exile in Babylon, the same can be said of God's people today. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is always a good thing to make plans so that we have a map of where we are going in life and where we are trying to get to, but we must always hold those plans in loose fingers recognizing that God may redirect us or our lives at any moment. When we cling too closely to our plans, place our hope too strongly in our vision of the future, when we believe our plans are written in stone, we set ourselves up for radical disappointment when things turn out differently. We can also begin to question the goodness of God when we think we know what is best for our future or when we think God is simply being cruel or arbitrary. But if you are a child of God, if you have placed saving faith in Christ and are trusting in him alone for your salvation, even when our lives do not turn out or are not turning out the way we had hoped or thought, know that God’s plans for you are always for your good and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope.
Strengthening Your Prayer Life
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
Prayer is one of the areas that most Christians struggle with. Over the years I have spoken with countless believers who have admitted to struggling in their prayer life. We read stories like George Muller and wonder how we can have that kind of prayer life? Doubtless there are many different reasons for our weak prayers. One may be a lack of faith. Another may be a misunderstanding of what prayer is and how it works. Another may simply be not making prayer time a priority in our busy schedules. But one reason that is often overlooked by men who desire to have a more effective prayer life is the manner in which they treat and love their wives. Notice carefully the words of Peter: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Husbands need to be understanding with their wives and honor them as the weaker vessel. Weaker, not in the sense that they are less intelligent or less valuable, but in the sense of understanding that God intended for men to be their protectors and shepherds. Peter offers two reasons as to why this should be. The first is because our wives are “heirs” with us. Husbands should strive to be understanding toward their wives and honor them because they are, after all, fellow sisters in Christ who will inherit the kingdom of God with us. Secondly, however, husbands should strive to be understanding toward their wives and honor them so that our prayers may not be hindered. Why is that? Quite simply, why should God honor our prayers when we fail to honor and cherish the most precious gift He has given us? Husbands, if you want your prayer life to be strengthened and you wanted more of your prayers to be answered, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.”
Fathering Your Children
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)
As a father, not angering your children is nearly impossible. Every time I discipline one of my children or tell them they have to do their chores rather than play outside or simply give them an answer they do not want to hear, they can easily be made angry. But Ephesians 6:4 is not about never making your children angry. To accomplish that goal would mean giving your children whatever they ask for or always saying yes. This certainly would not make them angry but would, of course, spoil them and engender an attitude of entitlement. Rather, Ephesians 6:4 is about applying the second great commandment to your children. We can sometimes think the second great commandment only applies to the people who live next door to us or across the street from us or whom we work next to or attend church with. However, “loving your neighbor” is as much about your own children as it is about your next door neighbor, no matter how young they are. Thus, we as fathers, should always strive to be the kind of father to our children as we would want for ourselves, if we were children. We should not be arbitrary in our rules, tyrannical in our authority, abusive in our discipline, or harsh with our words. We should never say the sort of things to our children we would not have wanted spoken to us by our fathers when we were children. Telling our children they are dumb or not smart or saying, “What is wrong with you?” is never helpful at best, and harmful at worst. As fathers, we should strive to be the kind of father to our children we would have wanted for ourselves—firm but fair, patient but not spineless, protective but not possessive, godly but not legalistic.
The Compassion of God
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:14)
One of the most comforting passages in all of scripture is Psalm 103:8-14 which says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” It’s comforting because it not only reminds us that God will forgive our sins when we come to him asking for forgiveness because God is merciful and forgiving, but also because God is understanding and compassionate. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” God knows how weak we are. He knows how difficult it is for humans to resist temptation. This certainly does not excuse our behavior, but it causes God to be compassionate on our souls. There’s a lesson to be learned here. Knowing how difficult it is for us to always do the right thing, we should be more understanding of others when they don’t do the right thing. If God is compassionate with us because he knows our frame, how compassionate should we be with others whose frame we resemble?
Nothing by Chance
For to the snow he says, “Fall on the earth.” (Job 37:6)
As I sit here looking out the window at the lovely blanket of snow covering the ground, I am reminded of God’s amazing power and sovereignty. Beginning in chapter 36, Job’s friend, Elihu, begins to extol the greatness of God, essentially asking Job who he thinks he is to question God. In the process, he says, “God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world” (vv.5-12). Elihu’s point is that God is in sovereign control of all things. There is nothing in this world that happens by chance or accident. This is actually a very comforting thought to know that someone is in control of this seemingly chaotic world we live in. We are not at the mercy of chance or circumstance or corrupt politicians. When bad things or unexpected things happen in this world, we can know and be sure that they happen for a good reason because God is good and trustworthy and wise.
Kitten vs Grizzly
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled. (Psalm 2:12)
As we look out at the world, it can sometimes be discouraging and disheartening to see the world spiraling out of control, literally in a tailspin with the ground rapidly approaching. It appears the world has no regard or reverence for God and we wonder why God puts up with us. However, the current anti-God attitude displayed in society and in our culture is not new. In fact, Cain killing his own brother Abel in Genesis 4, right at the start of world history, was the first act of extreme irreverence toward God. Abel was created in the image of God, the second-born son of Adam and Eve, and his own brother killed him. Thus, we read in the second psalm, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (vv.1-2). The author of Psalm 2 is unknown, but if we assume David wrote it, since he is the author of most of the psalms, then this psalm was written about one-thousand years before Christ, three-thousand years before today. The world has always been “against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Yet while we fret about what we see happening in the world and we worry about the future of our nation, we are told that God “sits in the heavens [and] laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (v.4). God looks at the world’s anti-God posturing, and it is like a baby kitten hissing and being aggressive toward a 600-pound grizzly bear. Laughable! If God is not fretting about what he sees in the world, neither should we. Hence, Psalm 2 ends with a strong and sober warning from God. “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [Jesus Christ], lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” God is being incredibly patient with the world. But much like the grizzly bear staring in amazement and bewilderment at the half-pound kitten baring his teeth and hissing, there will come a day when the grizzly bear will have had enough.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. (Galatians 6:1)
Following up on yesterday’s Daily Thoughts, Christians often struggle with knowing whose responsibility it is to correct those behaving sinfully. Often the thought is it should be those who are closest to the person, their spouse, their family members, or their pastor. However, Galatians 6:1 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” First of all, the underlying Greek word for “restore” (katartizō) is in the imperative mood. Meaning, it is written in the form of a command. Thus, when we see someone “caught in any transgression,” we who are spiritual are to seek to restore that person; restore them to right fellowship with the saints and with God. Second, when seeking to understand who should be the one to do the correcting, the answer is those who are spiritual. That is, those who are believers but also those who recognize the sin problem. Third, when scripture says, “if anyone is caught in any transgression,” we tend to think about being caught or trapped in some horrendous and hideous sin. But sometimes the sin people can be caught in is pride, arrogance, laziness, gossip, slander, divisiveness. These can be harder to see and detect and often seem less harmful than the bigger and more grievous sins. Notice scripture says, “any transgression…” Of course, if you’re a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. This verse does not mean we go around hammering everyone for every little sin. Restoring someone or correcting their sin, does not always mean offering a sharp rebuke. Sometimes it means when someone begins to gossip, simply saying, ‘You know, I don’t think we should be having this conversation,’ and then redirecting the conversation to something else. Or, when someone comes to us to “seek our advice” about someone who has offended them, we stop them and gently say to them, ‘You know, I really don’t need to hear this. If you are having trouble with someone else, you need to go and speak to that person directly and privately, per Matthew 18:15.’ But nonetheless, we are all responsible for restoring someone who is caught in sin.
When You've Been Hurt
If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matt. 18:15)
When someone upsets us or does or says something to offend us or just behaves in a way we know is sinful and will be harmful either to themselves or to someone else, what should we do about it? Too often when the sin is not against us, we look the other way, believing that it’s not our problem, that someone else will deal with it. However, when the sin has been committed against us, many Christians will often take one of two approaches. Either they will stuff the emotions down inside and try and ignore them, all to keep the peace or they seek the advice of a trusted friend as to what to do about it or how to handle it. All three of the above approaches are sinful and unbiblical approaches. In Matthew 18:15 Jesus says, “If your brother sins…” Some translations say, “If your brother sins against you…” (ESV, NKJV). However, the words “against you” are being supplied by our English translators. The Greek New Testament simply says, per NASB and NIV, “If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault…” Thus, what Jesus is saying is that if your brother sins in any way or against anyone, you have a responsibility to go to him and address the issue, whether the sin is against you or not. But what is also worth noting is that Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” In the Greek, the word “go” is in the imperative mood. In other words, Jesus commands us to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Thus, to not go and speak with the sinning brother or sister, is sinful on our part for it would be disobedient to Christ’s command. Additionally, to go and speak with someone else about the issue, rather than going privately to the sinning brother or sister would also be sinful because Christ commands us to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Christ does not command us to keep the matter to ourselves nor does he command us to seek the “advice” of someone else. Christ commands us to address the sinning brother or sister directly and privately. Of course, if the sinning brother or sister does not respond favorably to our correction, we don’t continue to keep the matter private. In Matthew 18:16-17, Jesus gives additional steps to take.
Made for Each Other
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Today as millions of couples celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be worth going back to where it all began—the garden of Eden. We are told in Genesis 1 that on the sixth day of creation, God created Adam and Eve in his own image, “male and female he created them.” From this one verse there are several truths worth noting. First, God created one man and one woman. Throughout the previous creation account, we read that God created an abundance of fish in the sea and birds in the sky and animals roaming the land. God did not create just two fish in the sea to multiply and fill it. He said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures…” God did not create just two mice or just one cow and one bull but caused the earth to be filled with living creatures. Yet, when he created humans, he created one man and one woman. The message is clear—God intended marriage to be the union of one man and one woman for a lifetime. Had God intended for polygamy to be the norm, he would have created multiple women for Adam, but he didn’t. Eve was all Adam was given because she was all he needed. Adam was all Eve had because she was created for him, for his enjoyment and companionship. The second obvious truth is that God created two genders—male and female. He did not create multiple genders because there were not multiple people, and multiple genders did not exist in each of them. This makes sense in light of the fact that God then commands them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (v.28). Two males or two females cannot carry out the intended purpose for which God created humans. The third important truth to notice is that marriage is for a lifetime. Adam and Eve were not supposed to die. Thus, the message that would have been emphatically clear to them is that ‘it’s just you and me forever.’ If their marriage didn’t work out for some reason, there was no one else for Adam or Eve to turn to. There was no one else! The message was clear—‘Make this work, because each other is all you have.’ Married couples need to still think this way. We need to make this work because each other is all we have—divorce is not an option. If you are married and reading this, use today to not just focus your attention on your marriage today, but use today to make this the starting point for making your marriage a priority. Begin to make your spouse a top priority because each other is all you have.
Where Are All the Women?
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)
Since the 1960’s, the feminist agenda has pushed the idea that to be fully woman is to be equal with men in every way. The problem this created is that the idea of women being equal with men in every way has not only driven women into the fulltime workforce, to taking steroids and entering professional body building and losing all semblance of femininity, desiring to become frontline infantry soldiers, and female MMA fighters, but has led to the misguided belief that for women to be equal with men is to be a man. Hence, the rise in transgenderism among women. However, true womanhood, biblical womanhood, is not to be found in women being equal with men, but in fulfilling the God-ordained and essential role for which they were created. If God wanted a world filled with men, he would have created two Adams who could reproduce, but he did not. He created Eve because Adam needed a helper. Adam needed a complementarian counterpart. God created Eve because she was necessary to the order and balance of creation. Then what does it mean to be fully and truly woman according to God? First, biblical womanhood means living her life for the glory of God and being content with having been created woman. Women are fully created in the image of God and as such are created for his glory; that is, to reflect the glory and the beauty of her Creator (Gen 1:27; Is 43:6-7; 1 Cor 10:31). Second, for those married, biblical womanhood means being a helpmate to her husband in fulfilling whatever ministry or occupation God has called him to. Eve was created to be Adam’s helper, to help him do what God had set before him (Gen 2:18). Biblical womanhood means graciously and willingly submitting to her husband’s leadership and authority, not because she is less intelligent—she is not—but because she so completely trusts in the goodness and sovereignty of God, she recognizes and accepts that God has placed her where she is (Eph 1:11b; 5:22-24). Third, biblical womanhood means making the care of her husband, her children, and her home her foremost priority (Titus 2:3-5). Not because she is incapable of doing more, but because she is so in love with Christ and desires to be like him who said of himself, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mk. 10:45). Biblical womanhood is about submitting to God’s will, embracing the role God has given her, and doing all for the glory of God.
Where Are All the Men?
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Cor. 16:13)
I once heard it said that if a man-eating lion was released in the United States, he would starve to death. This is probably not far from the truth. This is because too many men have a misunderstanding of biblical manhood. Too many men think being a man means being into sports, being a tough guy, being able to handle guns or hunt and fish or never being emotional. But that is not what biblical manhood is about. Biblical manhood is about being the spiritual leader for your family, being the provider and protector for your family, and about leading and serving within the church. Scripture makes clear that husbands and fathers are to shepherd and disciple their wives and children (Eph 5:25-27; 6:4). It is their responsibility to not only teach them God’s word through personal conversations and family worship time, but also to set the example by leading the family in prayers before meals and bedtime, by spending personal time in God’s word and prayer, and by striving to be like Christ. Biblical manhood also means being the primary provider for the family. Scripture makes clear that if any man “does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Though women may work outside the home, it is the man’s responsibility to ensure there is food on the table, a roof over the family’s head, and clothes for them to wear. Biblical manhood means being the spiritual and physical protector of the family. This means understanding theology rightly so as to squash false doctrine, regulating what the family listens to and watches on the radio and television, and gently, lovingly, and protectively treating his wife as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7). Finally, biblical manhood means leading and serving within the church. Too many mainline protestant churches are filled and staffed with women who are serving in the nursery, teaching the Sunday school classes, running the church, and preaching the Sunday sermons. This is largely due to the fact that for too long men have been AWOL from church. Church is important. Women understand that. But as they looked around and saw no men willing to step up and lead, women felt they had no choice but to step up and fill the leadership void. Men need to remember the words of the apostle Paul—"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
Walking Through Dark Valleys
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
So often when we are going through difficult times in life, when we are suffering, hurting, it can be difficult to see God. It can be difficult to trust in the goodness of God, to know he is there comforting us, leading us, strengthening us. What is interesting to note from the 23rd psalm is that David does not write, ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He leads me around the valley of the shadow of death because it frightens me…’ He also does not say, ‘Even though He takes me through the valley of the shadow of death…’ David does not fault God for going through the darkest valleys of life. He understands that going through the dark valleys of life is part of living life in a fallen world. For God to truly protect us from experiencing suffering in this world, he would have to take us out of this world. Thus, David does not focus on the negative (the dark valley), he focuses on the positive (“for you are with me”). David is trusting in the goodness and leading of God. He may not understand why he is in this valley or where God is leading him, but this he knows--that God is with him, that God has not abandoned him, that God is caring for him, loving him, leading him, strengthening him. The joy and the strength and comfort that comes from being in covenantal relationship with God is not in being protected from harm and suffering but—unlike the rest of the world—knowing we are not alone. Unlike the rest of the world, knowing there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Unlike the rest of the world, knowing that somehow my suffering is for my good and God’s glory. Unlike the rest of the world, knowing that we never say “goodbye” to our loved ones in Christ but rather, “I’ll see you after a while.” Believers look forward to the day when we will be reunited with our loved ones and family and friends. Thus, when we walk through life’s darkest valleys, let us not fear the evil that lies before us for God is with us.
How Much Should I Give?
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)
It’s interesting that when Paul encourages the Corinthian church to give generously, he does not command them. In fact, he specifically says to them, “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (2 Cor. 8:8, 24). In other words, he does not want to command them to give but if they want to prove or show their love for Christ is genuine, that their love for others is genuine, then they should give generously to the church. Paul encourages them to give generously for two reasons. First, he appeals to the example set by the church in Macedonia. At the beginning of the chapter he writes, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (vv.1-4, emphasis added). Out of “their extreme poverty” they gave in a “wealth of generosity…beyond their means” and were begging them earnestly for the privilege of being able to give. The church in Macedonia was extremely generous. So much so, he mentions this when he writes to them in the letter to the Philippians, that throughout his missionary journeys, they were the only ones who faithfully and consistently provided him with financial and material support (1:3-7; 4:14-18). The second way Paul encourages them to give generously is by reminding them of what Christ has done for them. He goes on to say, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (8:9, emphasis added). He reminds them of God’s grace and all that Christ accomplished on their behalf and then encourages them to give in light of that. In other words, look toward the cross of Christ and then ask yourself, ‘In light of what Christ gave for me, how much should I be willing to give for him?’ How much of my income is the cross of Christ worth? We should strive for and pray to be more like the church in Macedonia who “overflowed in a wealth of generosity” for the saints (8:5).
Prone to Wander
When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. (2 Kings 22:11)
In 2 Kings 22-23, we read that while the temple was being repaired under the leadership and direction of King Josiah who “did was right in the eyes of the LORD”, a copy of the “Book of the Law” was found inside the temple. It was then carried to King Josiah and read to him. And when “the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes” and then commanded them to “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us" (22:13). Josiah responds to God’s Laws with conviction, guilt, and remorse. Later, in chapter 23, Josiah makes “a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (23:3). He then cleanses the temple of the “vessels made for Baal,” deposes the false priests, removes the high places and Asherah poles, and “broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes.” Thus, Josiah first responds to God’s Law with conviction, guilt, and remorse, and then leads the people in repentance by turning them away from the worship of false gods. What a great example for all of us. This should be our response to the reading and hearing of God’s word. Yet, so often, like the Israelites, we become dull and callused to God’s word. We read it mindlessly during our personal devotional time. We hear the Bible being read in church and yet our mind is someplace else. The Israelites fell into sin because they had forgotten what God had done for them. This is evident from the fact they had not kept the Passover for over 700 years (23:21-22). May our prayer ever be: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.”
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor. 10:17-18)
Living in the technological and information age has its advantages and its disadvantages. We live in a time and age where many feel the pressure and temptation to be a “social influencer.” Thus, many will take to some form of social media platform with the desire to be heard, to shape public opinion. We all have this desire to be thought highly of in our own respective circles, among our own peers, whether that be among the professional/white collar class or among the gangbanger/drug dealer class. We all want people to think better of us and not less of us. Trust me when I say the irony of me writing this short article and posting it on the internet is not lost on me. Because of the amount of writing and posting I do, I spend a great deal of time evaluating and then re-evaluating my own motives. Why do I do what I do? Why do I write? Why do I post? This is where passages like 2 Corinthians 10:17-18 can be great reminders of where our approval and commendation must come from. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” In the end, we must ever remember that it really does not matter what others think of us. It doesn’t matter what other’s opinion is of us. All that matters is what God thinks of us and that God is pleased with us. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). When we live for the approval or commendation of people, we are setting ourselves up for failure because people will always disappoint us and we can never truly nor fully live up to the expectations of others. But God will never disappoint us, and what God expects of us is repentance and faith. So long as we are trusting in Christ alone for our eternal security, we are completely forgiven of all our sins, clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness, and are in right standing before God. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
Hearing from God
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
I once a read a bumper sticker that said, “Seven days without reading the Bible makes one weak.” Notice the spelling of the word “weak.” This is absolutely true. I recently read about a survey conducted in 2020, which showed that 55% of professing Christians said they read their Bible 3-4 times or less per year. Not that they read the entire Bible 3-4 times per year, but that they pick up their Bible and read something from it 3-4 times per year. This is incredibly unfortunate because God’s word tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The words “breathed out by God” in the original New Testament Greek language are actually one word--theopneustos. It’s a compound word made from combining two Greek words, theos (God) and pneustos (breath). Thus, all scripture is the very breath of God. All scripture is God breathing. The Bible is not simply a record of what God has spoken; the Bible is God speaking to us in the here and now. It is for this reason it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If you want to be thoroughly equipped and prepared for everything life throws at you, read God's word every day. “For man does not live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Loving God and People
If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)
We live in a world that has a significant misunderstanding of what love is and what it means to love. The world thinks that loving someone means never wanting to offend them or upset them or disappoint them. But the reality is that kind of love is really self-serving and self-protecting. Those who love in that way do so because they don’t want others to think less of them. They don’t want others to think they are judgmental or condescending. In the end, if my way of loving someone is not doing or saying anything to offend or upset or disappoint them, then it’s really more about me than it is about that person. For this reason John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” While we might be tempted to think to ourselves, ‘Gosh! That’s harsh language. Just because I don’t want to offend or upset or disappoint someone does not mean I hate that person.’ But it does, according to the apostle John. If we see a truck barreling toward someone and we do nothing to warn him or rescue him, we clearly must hate that person. If we see someone, a believer or unbeliever, engaging in behavior we know will be harmful to themselves or someone else and we say or do nothing to warn them or help them, we clearly must hate them. We may not think we do. We may not feel we do. But hate is not about thoughts, or feelings—it’s about inaction. It’s about watching someone harm themselves or others and doing nothing to change it. Thus, as John writes, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18). Love must be more than words—love does what is best for someone else.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
Continuing to talk about love, people often wrestle with how to define love. What is love? We know what it looks like and how it behaves from 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, but how do we define it? As with any good and positive character trait, we must define love based on the character of God. This is especially true when we talk about love because scripture tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God is not just the source of love or filled with love--God is love. God is love personified. He is the very definition of love. Thus, if we are going to truly love people, if we are truly going to love our neighbor, our friends, our spouse, our children, we need to try and understand the love of God. In Romans 5:8 scripture says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “While we were still sinners,” we are told. To be clear about what it means to be a sinner in the eyes of God, a few verses later we read, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (5:10, emphasis added). “Enemies” of God is what it means to be sinners. This is because, as Anselm once rightly stated, most Christians “have not considered just how grievous a thing sin is in the eyes of God.” Each time we sin, regardless of what the sin is, we are shaking our fist at God shouting, ‘I don’t care about your holiness or about your laws!’ All sin, as RC Sproul once stated, “is cosmic treason against God.” And yet, we are told that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners [while we were enemies of God], Christ died for us.” So here is a definition of love based on the manner in which God loves us--love is wanting and doing what is best for someone else regardless of personal cost. God does not owe us anything. We don’t deserve to be saved and have our sins forgiven. Yet, we needed to be saved and have our sins forgiven; thus, God did what was best for us regardless of personal cost. What did it cost him? —the death of his son. This is what love looks like, and this is how we should love God and love our neighbors.
Love Endures All Things
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:7)
The fourth action that biblical love displays is endurance. Love “endures all things.” The question is how is this different from the idea that “love bears all things”? In my previous post “Love Bears All Things” (click here to read it), I said the “Greek word for “bears” is the word stegō, and it carries the meaning of ‘to cover, to pass over in silence, or to keep confidential.’ Thus, when scripture says that love bears all things, it means that love is willing to overlook the flaws and shortcomings of others.” Here the Greek word for “endures” is the word hupomenō, and it carries the meaning of ‘being patient under adversity, suffer, endure, put up with.’ Thus, true, biblical, and Christ-honoring love puts up with a lot. No matter how difficult someone can be, no matter how often they disappoint us or offend us or sin against us, love says to that person, “I’m going to love you anyway and I’m going to keep loving you because that’s what love does.” An incredible example of this is the story of Hosea. Here is a man who married a prostitute named Gomer because God commanded him to. However, Hosea grew to truly love his wife and had had three children with her. The problem is that his wife continued to engage in prostitution and, as you would expect, this began to really upset Hosea, and so he begins to complain and moan to his family about her (2:1-5). Imagine your wife or husband out on the streets at night having sex with strangers for money. How would you react? Hosea responds by vowing to do all he can to win her affections (2:14). Amazing! But then things go from bad to worse and his wife ends up being sold as a slave by her pimp on the auction block. Now most men at that point would think, ‘Good! She got what she deserved, and I’m finally rid of her.’ Not Hosea. What does he do? He buys her back and says to her, “You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man, so will I also be to you” (3:2). That’s amazing! Why would he do that? That's what love does. Love endures all things.
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