It’s Wednesday morning, January 11, 2012. Hump day. The middle of my first full work week since before Christmas. That could be why this week is feeling so long, right? It’s a brisk 36 degrees out, this morning, but is supposed to get up to 68. That’s a pretty big difference. We have yet to have any “real” winter weather, but it’s not February yet. In north central Texas, winter is only one month long, you know…
Mmmm…coffee is good…
I think, perhaps, my sleep patterns must have changed. Every morning this week, I have been in the middle of a dream when the alarm went off. I hate that. I’ll never find out what happened.
That thing that we were praying about for Christi yesterday went pretty well. There will be more. Updates will be provided when available.
Before I get into my devotion, I want to reblog a poem that was written by one of the bloggers I follow, Linda Kruschke. It’s called “Less Than Nothing,” and goes like this:
Nothing is what
I thought I was
But now I realize
it was much worse
than I imagined
I am something
that is less than nothing
Selfish and self-centered
Hateful, angry, and bitter
Jealous and envious
Lazy, slothful, and out of control
Unkind, thoughtless, and mean
I’d rather be nothing
than be what I am
Isn’t that beautiful? I was really stunned when I read that, because there are many of us who echo the sentiment, “I would be nothing without you!” But what Linda has written is more accurate. Without Christ, we are not nothing! We are, in fact, “less than nothing.” Thanks, Linda, for that reminder!
My Utmost For His Highest
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26
“If we obey God it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the sting comes in.” What a profound statement. And the truth is demonstrated in the above verse. Poor Simon…just standing there, minding his own business, when, all of a sudden, “Hey, you! Come here! Carry this cross!” We talk about what obedience might cost us, but the truth is, if we love Christ, our obedience really costs nothing! But it might upset someone else’s plans. And in doing so, cause them to say, “You call this Christianity??”
We cannot bear the entire thing ourselves. This will cause something that has, in the past few decades, come to be known as “burnout.” Chambers calls it “stagnation.” But the truth is, “We are so involved in the universal purposes of God that immediately we obey God, others are affected.” If we insist that we will never cause someone else to suffer, “we shall be a grief to our Lord. Whereas if we obey God, He will look after those who have been pressed into the consequences of our obedience. We have simply to obey and to leave all consequences to Him. (Emphasis mine)
This is difficult stuff, here. We don’t like to think about our obedience causing someone else to suffer. In fact, we might hesitate, thinking that, in obeying, we are being selfish. But we aren’t. We simply need to trust God.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3
If we are to rest in the righteousness of Christ, we must give up any thought of having any ability to keep the law. “At the last judgment, we are either going to stand before God in our own righteousness or the righteousness of our Savior, and only the latter righteousness allows us to be declared just by the Lord, thereby granting us access to His blessed presence.”
The Heidelberg Catechism, in Q&A 5, asks, “Can you keep all these things perfectly?” “All these things,” meaning the law of God. The answer is “No way, because, by nature, I hate God and my neighbor.” (That was a paraphrase.) Many would object, saying, “I don’t hate God or my neighbor.” But, in truth, if we do not keep his commands, we hate him. If we do not love his Son, we hate him. And even if we do “good” things for our neighbors, if we have not loved God first, those “good” things are still questionable. In our “fallen” state, we cannot please God. Romans 3:23 is the most basic statement of that fallenness. …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
But God, in his great mercy (in fact, those are the first two words of Ephesians 2:4…”But God,” my two favorite words in the Bible), has provided a Savior, who has kept the law perfectly, and in whose righteousness we can stand. “Let us never hope in our own righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ.”
The Bible Panorama
Matthew 8:18-34; Genesis 27-28
As we continue Matthew 8 from yesterday (the first word was “Comprehensiveness“), we see Jesus talking about the “Cost” (18-22) of discipleship. (See the reading from Oswald Chambers above.) Following Christ must come before “where we prefer to live and what our family wants us to do.” As the author points out, there was no indication that this man’s father was dying, or even close to death. He just wanted to delay his “following” until his father had died. Then, we see “Calm” (23-34), as Jesus supernaturally calms a storm, and then “calms” a demon-possessed man. Jesus Christ can deal with the storms and Satanic domination in people’s lives. If he can rule over nature, he can certainly meet my needs.
Genesis 27 begins by telling us of Isaac’s “Blindness” (1-4). He is well advanced in years, now, and can no longer see. He asks his oldest son, Esau, the one who is more of an outdoorsman, to go hunt and cook him a delicious meal. Rebekah overhears this request and displays her “Bias” between the two sons. (5-10) She prepares a meal like the one Esau is going to prepare and sends Jacob in to Isaac with it. This leads to “Betrayal” (18-29), as Jacob steals the blessing that would have been Esau’s. Jacob (and Rebekah) has betrayed both his father and his brother at this point. Esau comes in right after Jacob leaves, and asks for his “Blessing” (30-40), which, of course, has already been given to Jacob. There must have been much greater significance to this than we understand in our modern culture, because Isaac claimed that there was only one blessing and Jacob had stolen it. This, of course, causes “Bitterness” (41-46) in Esau, who makes plans to kill Jacob after Isaac dies. Rebekah learns of this plot and tells Jacob to flee back to the place whence she came, the home of her brother Laban. In order to facilitate this move, Rebekah tells Isaac that it would just kill her if Jacob took a wife from these “Hittite women.” So Isaac sends Jacob away with yet another blessing.
A side note on the events of this chapter… Many feel that this trickery of Jacob and Rebekah skirted around God’s plan to give Jacob the birthright and the servitude of his older brother. Remember…God prophesied that Jacob would be greater and that Esau would serve him. People who claim this do not understand the sovereignty of God. Like it or not, the events in Genesis 27 were God’s plan!
Genesis 28–I got a little ahead of myself back there. It is in the first 9 verses of this chapter that we find Isaac sending Jacob away to find a “Suitable Spouse” (1-9) among the people of Rebekah’s family. Esau then decided to marry a daughter of Ishmael. We aren’t sure why he did this, other than it notes that he saw that his parents were not pleased with the thought of them marrying Canaanite women. In verses 10-17, Jacob experiences “Significant Sleep,” in which he has a dream/vision of a ladder going up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. During this time, God refreshes his covenant with Abraham, and Jacob awakens, realizing that God has been present. This is Jacob’s “Spiritual Start” (18-22), as he marks this place with an altar and calls it “Bethel,” which means “House of God.” He makes a vow to the Lord and commits a tithe of everything he owns to the Lord.
Father, I ask for humility to be able to acknowledge the truth that, without you…before you, I was “less than nothing.” We give ourselves too much credit to say that we were “nothing” without you, when in fact, we were something. All of the negative things in that poem…that describes us, before you, to perfection. Sadly, the truth is, we are all too often those things with you! Forgive us, Father!! Forgive us when we display arrogance and pride, selfishness, hatred, and any quality that ought not flow from a child of yours! Over and over, the Scriptures tell us of the importance of loving our neighbor. Yet we continue to spew forth hatred. People gather in your name, calling themselves “Christian” and shout hatred toward people with whom they disagree. Where is the love in this? Why would anyone follow you with that kind of example leading? Lord, I pray for you to raise up a people who show the love of Christ to the world. Let us leave the judgment to you! Let us leave the consequences to you! Let us simply follow you, Lord.
I praise you for your sovereign will, Father. Your ways are not our ways, and there is no way we could ever understand the things you do. But I will follow, and I will praise you, and I will declare your sovereignty. I will trust you. My hope is in you, for there is nowhere else to put it. The story of Jacob and Esau has twists in it that send us spinning in circles. Yet, you show us, once again, that the people you used (still use), people we tend to call “giants of faith,” are just people, just like us. They are flawed. Jacob was a deceiver. His father and grandfather were both liars. We are all flawed human beings, and you choose to use us in your kingdom. Thank you for this privilege, Lord. One of our greatest theologians, the Apostle Paul, called himself “chief of sinners.” He was very aware of his nature, as am I. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for the hope that you give us.
I pray for this day, Lord. I thank you that Christi’s day had a pretty good ending yesterday. I pray that her day today will be a good day. Let the stress level diminish, and I pray that you would cause her to slide that stress right on over to you. Help her remember that you are there with her. I pray that my work day will be smooth, and I pray that Stephanie will have a productive day as she meets with teacher and counselor today.
May we truly understand obedience, and leave the consequences to God. He can take care of anything.
Grace and peace, friends.