Discern What Pleases the Lord

Wednesday morning, and school is still going very well. If they’ll just get the bus route figured out so they can get the kids to school on time…

Jumping right into the devotion…

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 17:14-27
14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,
15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”
17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
21 [But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.]

Verse 21 is not in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts. It’s interesting that the father says the boy is epileptic, but Matthew says that Jesus rebuked “the demon.” That’s curious. I know people who don’t believe in demon-possession, but think the NT accounts were all epilepsy. Is all epilepsy demon possession? Were all demon possessions epilepsy? Are all squares rectangles? Yes, but not all rectangles are squares. I won’t pretend to be wise enough to know the answer, but I believe what the Bible says to be true. Therefore, I choose to believe that what the father thought was epilepsy was really a demon. But I don’t believe that all epilepsy is demon possession.
Anyway…the disciples couldn’t deal with this one. Jesus criticizes their “little faith,” and talks about the mustard seed again. Is he referring to actual, physical mountains?? I don’t know. I’ve never seen anyone move a mountain. However, Moses and Joshua parted great bodies of water.

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,
23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

Jesus is letting the disciples know what’s coming. This is at least the second time he has spoken of his impending death and resurrection.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Jesus was pretty clear about our responsibility to the government. At another place in Scripture, he says to “render unto Caesar…” He won’t always give us a coin in a fish’s mouth, but we are supposed to pay our taxes. Is it okay to complain about them? Not sure about that…Paul tells us to do everything without complaining. (Philippians 2:14) Does that include paying taxes?

Isaiah 27
This chapter speaks of the redemption of Israel. In verse 1, the Lord slays “the dragon,” “Leviathan the fleeing serpent.” This probably is a metaphor for evil powers in the world, which are backed by Satan. After that, he speaks of a pleasant vineyard that the Lord will keep and water. The end result is depicted in verse 12ff:
12 In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel.
13 And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Proverbs 6:20-35
He begins with encouragement to keep the commands of the father and the teachings of the mother. They will be light to the path, and protection when you lie down. Then there are more warnings against adultery. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes… (v. 25) It almost looks like the writer would rather see the reader interact with a prostitute than with a married woman in verse 26: for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. I’m sure he’s not encourage the former, but the latter is much worse.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.
35 He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.

Solomon basically says that if you commit adultery, you’re stupid. Like a man trying to carry fire or walking barefoot on hot coals.

Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10)

The “desire to please God is a mark of conversion, and the Bible finds it inconceivable that any regenerate person would lack a desire to please the Lord.” Is this incompatible with the doctrine of justification by faith alone? No, because we are not desiring to please God so that he will save us. We desire to please God because he HAS saved us; our nature is changed. Pleasing the Lord is not our “ticket to heaven.” The desire to please him is “the necessary and inevitable consequence of the new birth.”
How do we “discern what is pleasing to the Lord?” The best way is to study the Bible. There is no better way to learn what pleases God than to study his words. “Soaking ourselves in Scripture reinforces our understanding of the light in which we must walk, transforming our minds that we might do what pleases God (Rom. 12:2).”
(From Tabletalk Magazine)

Father, I pray for my study of Scripture that I might walk in your ways, thereby learning what pleases you the most. I agree that there is no better place to learn what pleases you than in your words. I figure that’s why you’ve given them to us. And that is a major reason that I do this every morning, and I feel like I’ve totally missed out on a very important piece of my life if I miss it in the morning. Help me to learn what pleases you. You would think that, after 53 years, I would have it figured out. Unfortunately, there’s still enough of the old me hanging around, the flesh hanging on, to distract me pretty badly at times. I pray that these distractions will decrease as I, hopefully, mature in you.
Lord, I pray that I will also learn to do things without grumbling…things like paying taxes and doing my civil duties and responsibilities. While it is true that I believe myself to be a citizen of heaven first, I am still a citizen of the USA, and have certain obligations to the country. Help me to fulfill those. I also pray that you help me get back into a habit of praying for our leaders on a daily basis. I used to do that every day. I’ve used the excuse that I don’t have enough time…that’s lame. I do have enough time. So, for starters, today, I pray for our president, Barak Obama. I pray that he will seek your wisdom as he goes about his duties as president. I pray for his cabinet, and for our congress, that they might also seek your will as they make decisions for our nation. We pray for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is always our prayer. Sometimes my will conflicts with your will. So my will needs to change, in that case. I also ask that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ would cease their derogatory comments about the president and support him with prayer. They don’t have to agree with him. I don’t agree with him a lot of times. But I must pray for him. I also commit to carrying that precept down to lesser officials, like governors. I confess that I have been less than kind in my speech about the governor of our state. I will stop that. And I will pray for him and for the rest of our state government, as well.
Lastly, Lord, I pray for the kind of faith that can move a mountain. I have yet to see that in my lifetime, but I have certainly seen some great men and women of faith. I pray that my faith would be strong.

Thank you for the bus getting here earlier today. Perhaps Stephanie will get to school on time today. I pray that she will have a great day at school. I pray for her Government teacher, who has missed the first three days of school because of some personal issues.

I pray for a good day for Christi and me, that it will be stress free.

Finding what pleases the Lord is not as hard as we want to make it. It’s all there, in his word.

Grace and peace, friends.