Tag Archives: devotion

Dangers and Delusion of Rationalization

…behold, you have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they . . . made plans to kill him. . . . [But] Judah said to the others, “What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother!” (Genesis 37:18, 26-27 NLT)

Initially, out of jealousy for their little brother, Joseph’s elder brothers proposed a plan to kill him. Then they altered their strategy of murdering him, rationalizing a lesser sin, to sell him into slavery to by-passing Ishmaelite traders. When you rationalize your plan to commit a lesser sin, it remains sin. At these times of temptation consider the consequences of your actions. When we justify in such times when deceived that a lesser evil is okay, we surrender our conscience from the guidance of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Rationalizing is, in many cases, delusion in disguise. We might think we are smart while acting in folly.

Begin to consider in what areas of life where you might be rationalizing sin that could lead to harmful consequences.

  • Have I joked crudely, even if it hurts another’s feelings?
  • Do I have a propensity for gluttony, drunkenness, sexual lust, anger, or slanderous gossip?
  • Have I ever told half-lies versus the whole truth?
  • Am I ethically divisive based on political leanings?
  • Do I advise others how to live even if it is against their conscience and thus viewed as sin?
  • Do I ever sidestep the plain truth of scripture that doesn’t fit my denominational group-think?
  • Have I ever rejected Christ as my Saviour?
  • Do I sway others  towards non-Christian ideologies unto ungodly living in this world’s culture?
  • Have I minimized Christ in the family to get along with my partner/spouse?
  • Have I often spoken of the faults of others without exhibiting forgiveness?

Let the Lord challenge you: Live such good lives among the unbeliever that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)

Demons lurk behind international warfare

Now in 2022, the war in Ukraine brings violent evil to the fore once again and threatens to reshape our global future in ways we can only imagine.

Human selfishness and greed are among the sins that spawn wars: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” (James 4:1, NASB). Collectively, however, the scale of human suffering at the hands of others also seems to presume a dimension of cosmic evil that defies even our recognition of human depravity.

There are reasons for that. The Book of Daniel speaks not just of a succession of world empires but of the spiritual forces behind them. The angelic prince of Persia delayed an answer to Daniel’s prayers until Michael, Israel’s prince, intervened; the angelic prince of Alexander’s empire would follow (Dan. 10:13, 20–21; 12:1). God had sovereignly allotted times in history for various angels and their empires, but his angelic and human servants continued to work for his purposes until he caused them to prevail.

The Greek translation of Deuteronomy mentions that God appointed angels over the various nations, and Jewish thought increasingly recognized such heavenly rulers and authorities—what later rabbis called angels over the nations. These beings were typically hostile toward God’s people, but in the end, God would give the kingdom to his persevering people.

Because our king, Jesus, has already come, Satan has been defeated. His exaltation corresponds with the angel Michael’s heavenly triumph over the dragon (Rev. 12:7–8).

In explaining this story, scholars often invoke the World War II analogy between D-Day and V-Day. In D-Day, the success of the Normandy invasion decided the outcome of the war, and the defeat of the Nazi regime and its allies was merely a matter of time. Yet until V-Day—the final surrender of the Axis powers—battles continued and casualties mounted.

In the same way, all enemies—including the final one, death itself—will be subdued when Jesus returns (Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25–26), but his servants face continuing battles until then.

In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that Jesus is already enthroned above heavenly rulers and authorities (Eph. 1:20–22) and we are spiritually enthroned with him (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:6). In a letter that heavily underscores the unity between Jews and Gentiles in Christ’s body, this enthronement above angels of nations and empires means that our unity in Christ is greater than all the ethnic and national divisions fomented by such angels. Believers are no longer subject to the prince of this world (Eph. 2:1–3).

For Paul, this triumph over divisions has spiritual warfare ramifications, even for the interpersonal dimensions of our lives. In Ephesians 4, for example, denying the devil an opportunity means having integrity and controlling our anger (Eph. 4:25–27). In Ephesians 6:10–20, it means taking hold of the defensive armour of truth, faith, and righteousness, plus a weapon for invading hostile territory: the mission of the gospel.

The upside is that by faith we look forward to our Lord’s final victory over the world conflicts spawned by evil:

  • He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

  • “. . .in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” — Daniel 2:44 KJV
  • “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” — 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ESV
Excerpts from: Mark Johnson, Michael Heiser; and Louis Markos, Feb 26, 2022, Christianity Today

The Gospel of God the Father

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

The gospel of God (Mark 1:14–15) If the intratrinitarian love of God is a crucial theme within our text, we also need to draw together the wider themes related to the Messiah’s mission and how they illuminate the love of God. 1

In verse Mark 1:14 we are told Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news [gospel] of God. This wonderful phrase shows how Mark links the Gospel interchangeably to God or Jesus Christ (Mark 1: 1). In other words, the story of Jesus described above is very good news about God.

What is this good news? Perhaps I can explain it this way. There is a tension running through the prologue of Mark, and Mark 1:11 in particular, between the transcendence and immanence of God. Transcendence means that God is utterly distinct from his creation. Immanence captures how God is near and present, intimately involved within the world. Both are, in different ways, sources of very good news.

First, transcendence. In verse 11 God is in heaven, his ‘dwelling place: a different dimension of reality from the physical universe. It is only when heaven is ‘split’ open that the voice of God is heard. Mark’s description gives readers a glimpse of the glorious ‘otherness’ of almighty God. In other words, ‘behind the scenes’ God is reigning.

As the Son literally steps out of the Jordan in faith he is affirmed in his identity and mission. The Father is with him and anoints him with his Spirit. The presence of Father and Spirit remain with him in all the darkness to come. If the transcendent love of the Father and the empowering of the Spirit are good news for Jesus, they are also good news for Christians today. Obviously the parallel is not exact: Jesus has a unique relationship with his Father. He alone is the anointed king and Messiah. But there is encouragement here for us nonetheless. Jesus announces that The time has come … the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1:15).

As Acts later makes clear, God has now poured out his Spirit for all who respond in faith and repentance to the good news of the resurrected Son (e.g. Acts 2:38). Therefore, whatever trials we face in our daily lives, the ‘otherness’ of our transcendent God is a source of hope and comfort. Whether we are wrestling with cancer, broken relationships, grief, spiritual opposition, injustice or long-term unemployment, we can be encouraged that this world is not all there is: it is the gospel of the transcendent God that will have the last word.

Second, God is also immanent (here with us). God loves Israel passionately. He is also deeply angered by sin. Neither is he passive. In Mark the dramatic arrival of Israel’s Messiah is God’s (utterly unexpected) means by which to heal the story of our broken world by God’s fulfilled promise to Israel – he is working within history to bring forgiveness and hope, via a king establishing his kingdom here on earth and who is powerfully present in the world through his Spirit.

Most astonishingly of all, he through the incarnation and mission of his beloved Son, God shows us his utter commitment to this broken world. Jesus becomes vulnerable to hunger and temptation in the desert. Ultimately, as a human saviour, he allows himself to be vulnerable even to suffering and death. God has, in Christ, and through the Spirit, ‘come down’ to us.

The Father is well pleased Mark 1:11 to send his Son on such a mission because his endgame is blessing. Charles Wesley’s great words capture perfectly this paradox of the limitless transcendent love of God being embodied in his Son:

Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.

All this tells us astonishing good news about the God we worship: Father, Son and Spirit. Mark, does not spell this out, but invites his readers to think of ‘God’ through a new lens. He is at once totally, transcendant ‘other’ and, at the same time, immanently ‘present’ in the beloved Son whose mission leads to the cross.

Richard Hays suggests that ‘if we have rightly followed Mark’s narrative clues about the identity of the one on the cross’, the most appropriate response is ‘reticent fear and trembling’—where ‘we stand before the mystery in silence, to acknowledge the limitation of our understanding, and to wonder’. We would be wise to take this into account as we live our lives here on earth in what is actually a probabtionary period before the Second Advent of Jesus Christ who will ultimenty judge each of us according to our ways, words and deeds.

Learn about God’s Love; The New Covenant Manifesto of God’s Love

1 The insight into the Trinity by Patrick Mitchell is highly recommended,:The Message of Love: The Only Thing That Counts, ed. Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2019), 101–103.

You can live in the Spirit of holiness now

The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:14)

When Moses directed the Israelites to enter the promised land, he first sent spies to determine the layout of the land and potential enemy strength. Most of the spies expressed fear of the giants they saw in the land, referring to themselves in a demeaning note comparative to the giants as grasshoppers. They were downright scared puny! Moreover, they poisoned the minds of the Israelites to fear entering the land of promise – wherefrom milk and honey and giant grapes were brought back by the spies evidencing the fertility of the land.

With the majority upset, siding with the fear-mongering report, the Jews were doomed not to obey their marching orders from Moses, who took his lead from Yahweh God.

The minority report of two men, Caleb and Joshua, was overwhelmingly positive – let’s move forward into the promised land — we can overcome the giants — we have God on our side!  But it was not enough to open the deafened ears of the majority. For their stubbornness, which God viewed as a disobedient lack of trust in His ability to conquer and overcome, they would never cross the Jordan and enter the land. That entire generation of complainers would die right at their point of a call to radically act and be rewarded with the blessings promised and a bountiful land they could call home.

Significantly, Caleb and Joshua saw what all the other spies saw (Numbers 14:6). They saw grapes, and they saw the giants.  Nor did they dispute or deny that they were grasshoppers, but with the eye of faith, they ‘saw’ something else.  They were more conscious of God than they were of the giants, the grasshoppers, and even the grapes.  Caleb’s initial charge to the people was unequivocal: ‘Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it’ (Numbers 13:30). 1

The Israelites had just crossed the Red Sea and had seen how God destroyed the Egyptian army. Yet, they grumbled and defied the timing ordained by God to move into a place where with His help, it would have been impossible to fail if they’d demonstrated obedient trust.

This offers an object lesson typified by Joshua and Caleb’s clear-sighted trust and obedience in contrast with the whining populace of the then-current generation, who magnified the fear-mongering resistance to trusting God alone for victory.

Subsequently, entire corporate Israel – irrespective of Joshua and Caleb’s faithfulness – was adjourned by Yahweh to roam the desert wastelands until death. Their children would eventually enter 40 years later. For those fearful of failure in their walk with the Lord, we must learn a lesson to take courage, equip our minds and advance in the will of the Lord unto righteous living in His favour.  When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. (Psalm 56:3–4 ESV)

Those doomed to stay in one place are a type of Christians who never grasp the promise of God, that they can overcome the enemy, Satan and his demons, by the indwelling Spirit of God and live obedient and holy sanctified lives. Those who overcome will be prepared to meet the Lord with all his holy angels in the final reaping judgment at the second advent of Jesus Christ.

Many have experienced failure, often allowing Satan to tempt them to focus on their spiritual weaknesses. Here is an important scripture you can contemplate to encourage you to stand decisively like Joshua and Caleb, holding to the promises and doctrine taught by the prophets and the apostles. The apostle Peter made it clear that we are to adhere insightfully to the promises of God to overcome Satan’s temptations living obedient, holy lives.  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV)

The prophet Daniel speaks of the necessity of heeding a serious call to submit to the Lord and live an obedient and holy life. (Daniel 12:10 NAS): Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. 

1 A Radical Comprehensive Call to Holiness, Joel R. Beeke and Michael P.V. Barrett

Taking Risk with Caution

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:6)

Scripture tells us “do not depend on your own understanding” when we have an idea of what plan to implement for a business career or venture, a vacation, or even sharing the Gospel with others — it is important to seek God’s wisdom first. (Proverbs 3:6)

Accepting a shared insight as to what hot stock to invest in, whom to join within a business partnership, or what health measures you should take in life, has led many to troubling outcomes. It is important to prayerfully submit your plans to God and do your own due diligence. Yes, you need counsel, first from the Lord, and as you seek wisdom from human mentors who are also committed to the Lord. (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 22:6; 14:16; 15:23)

Jesus taught that your results indicate the level of your acquired wisdom that agrees with the Lord. He cured many, raised the dead, and opened the eyes of the blind, yet the Jewish leaders accused him of being led by and given powers from the devil. They also chided him for befriending sinners. Jesus rebuked the leaders noting that wisdom is vindicated by her deeds for good or evil. (Matthew 11:19)

Also, it is impossible to understand biblical truths for example: that Jesus is one with God the Father, and that it is His Spirit that guides you into all truth:

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt 11: 27)

All our greatest necessary insights into life – the truth, about Jesus and His Gospel, as well as all life’s strategies in line with His will, come via the Holy Spirit, as promised by Jesus. Righteous truth will come to a man or women who is obedient to the Word of God, and asks for guidance via the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.

The world cannot receive him [Christ and His Spirit that leads], because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. (John 14:17, NLT)

 

 

 

Plan with God for the coming year.

Where did last year go – it just flew by! Now we face another year. If we rely on God to lead and advise us, we can rest in these promises.

  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your limited understanding. Prayerfully seek His will in everything: including every strategy that you plan to do, every road you plan to take with every business and personal association you will conjoin. He will direct your focus on refining your life plans.1 (Proverbs 3:5-6  ESV)
  • I will guide, advise and watch over you along the best path for your life. 1 (Psalm 32:8 ESV)

You may think your plans generally go in the right direction. Yet it is vital to know that God’s purposes will prevail for your life as he seeks to draw you closer to His will. Thus prayerful, thoughtful planning and, yes, replanning help you to stay on the right course and navigate your life. After our day-planning year by year is said and done: “…the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21). He already knows what time has in store for you, including your best direction and potential destiny. Asking God for His guidance and ongoing supervision, you move forward with more self-worth enlivened by calm confidence, knowing that His purposes and work will prevail.

Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught. Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. 2

It is important to understand that the priority in your planning must be to adhere to the gospel call to obey the Lord as one adopted into his family, keep his teachings, and live a godly principled life. (see also Colossians 3:17, 23, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Philippians 1:6)

1 Glen Jackman’s bible version

2 Tim Keller on Why Calling Matters

Why was Jesus’ birth so odd?

The Savior . . . has been born tonight in Bethlehem . . . and this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth! Luke 2:11-12

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

God often accomplishes his purposes in unexpected ways. God used the census of a heathen emperor to bring Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Maybe that is also why he chose to have Jesus born in a stable rather than a palace, why he chose Bethlehem rather than Jerusalem, and why the news of Jesus’ birth went first to shepherds rather than to kings. God may have done all this to show that life’s greatest treasure—salvation through Jesus—is available to all. And it may also show that the lowly and humble might have a better chance of receiving that message. 1

God’s Promise God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. MATTHEW 5:5 

1 Beers, Gilbert; Beers, Ron. The One Year Mini for Men (p. 357). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Jude: God will keep us from stumbling.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” — Jude 24, 25 ESV

The author of Jude concludes this New Testament letter with a note of praise and acknowledgement to God for saving each of us from sin.

This passage is like a very detailed picture in an art museum, full of details and very mentally stimulating.

The writer reminds us of God’s capacity to keep us from stumbling. Most of us have experienced stepping awkwardly and nearly falling.  God alone can keep us from the more dangerous spiritual fall.

God is also able to present us as persons without blame.  And in the presence of everyone:  God, friends, angels, EVERYONE.  But notice the connection between these two “acts of God.”  He prevents our injury (through actions that would otherwise damage us) and He shows us as clean, unaltered by life in a world that needs redemption!

Jesus comes into the narrative as the central player, the instrument of our ‘being made right.’

There’s another piece here worth noticing.  Two phrases: ‘presence of his glory’ and ‘with great joy.’  There’s a lot to think about in those words.

God, eternity are definitions of what glory truly is.  Here the awkward one (you, me) is made comfortable in the glorious presence of God.  Our natural tendency is forgotten.  Never comes up again in this passage or in Eternity.

Now notice the next part.  ‘With great joy!’  Ever been around someone who got the task done but with a boatload of protest?  Like, ‘do I HAVE to mow the lawn?’  Not this one, salvation, is done with joy.

That’s how God is.  How about you and me?  Are we joyful about others?  1
 
1 The above is used with permission. Worship encouragement from my friend Pastor Mark Johnson, President SDA Church in Canada
 

Leaning towards our promised eternal life

Waiting for things patiently is a quality that must be developed in us (see Romans 5:3–4; James 1:3–4; 5:11; Revelation 13:10; 14:12). Patience is one of the Spirit’s fruit borne in our lives. It includes fortitude, endurance, and the ability to bear up under pressure in order to attain the desired goal.

In the same way that our “hope” gives us fortitude, the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. At times, our weakness is so intense that we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. At those times, the Spirit voices our requests for us. He intercedes by appealing to the only one who can help us, God himself. We may not know the right words to say, but the Holy Spirit does. His groanings to God become effective intercession on our behalf. (Romans 8:26)

The companionship of the Spirit in prayer is one of the themes of this chapter. Here, the Spirit literally “joins in to help” us, expressing for us what we can’t fully express for ourselves. How should we pray?

• Utilize all the forms prayer takes: adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, and meditation. As we pray, we should trust the Spirit to make perfect what is imperfect.

• Listen during prayer. We should ask the Spirit to search our hearts and minds, and then we should be silent.

• Practice prayer as a habit.

• Combine prayer with other regular spiritual disciplines (see Philippians 4:4–8).

• Confess sins that the Spirit points out.

The Father knows all hearts and he knows what the Spirit is saying (see Romans 8:26-27). God can look deep, past our inarticulate groanings, to understand the need we face, our hidden feelings. Even when we don’t know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with and for us, always in harmony with God’s own will. With God helping us pray, we don’t need to be afraid to come before him.

Because the Spirit’s efforts on our behalf are carried out in full agreement with God’s will, everything that happens to us in this life is directed toward that goal. What happens may not itself be “good,” but God will cause everything to work together for the ultimate good of his children, to meet his ultimate purpose for their maturity. The point is, God works all things for good, not “all things work out.” (Romans 8:28) Suffering will still bring pain, loss, and sorrow, and sin will bring shame. But under God’s control, the eventual outcome will be for our good.

God works behind the scenes, ensuring that even in the middle of mistakes and tragedies, good will result for those who love him. At times this will happen quickly, often enough to help us trust the principle. But there will also be events whose results for good we will not know until eternity. Our ultimate destiny is to be like Christ. God’s design is more than just an invitation; God summons us with a purpose in mind: we are to be like Christ and share his glory.

1Barton, B., Comfort, P., Osborne, G., Taylor, L. K., & Veerman, D. (2001). Life Application New Testament Commentary 

Jesus refers to Himself as The Truth

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13 ESV)

It is noteworthy that Jesus referred to Himself as the embodied character of absolute truth and honesty as noted in these verses: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. He would often say in the gospel of John regarding the truthfulness of His words: “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” (John 8:45 ESV); and “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46 ESV); and “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth…” (John 16:7 ESV)

And if it wasn’t true he’d tell you: “if it were not so, I would have told you” (John 14:6; 14:2 ESV).

Before He ascended to the Father, He told His disciples that “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13 ESV). All truth is not half-truths. Half-truths are lies. The apostle Paul wrote: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 ESV)

When you accept Jesus, you are then sharing the glory of His absolute Truth, his Holy Spirit’s Light on the subject, His Love towards your understanding, and His Moral Laws that you can know the wiles of the devil, and thus His Divine attributes as One in the trinity -divine unity with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You realize that to believe everything He says and lovingly represented as an incarnate man, you’ve now bound yourself to this convincing logical insight – and thereby have let the Spirit of Christ guide you to honesty within your own heart.