Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

It’s Thursday morning, November 3. Tonight is “lifehouse” night for us, so Christi and I will meet in a parking lot on the way home from work so we can ride together to the group meeting. It probably looks somewhat clandestine to the casual observer.

Not much else to report. Life was pretty normal yesterday. Stephie did have a pretty good visit with her mentor yesterday, so that was good. We’re still eating Halloween candy, too…had a lot left over. I’ve taken two buckets to work and am taking another full one today. That helps get rid of it.

Yesterday, I read this over at Grace Partakers. It’s a beautiful list of things that we can KNOW. Shout out to Carley for writing that.
Today’s Bible readings:

Titus 3; Jeremiah 50-51; 3:21-39

Titus 3 begins with Paul asking Titus to remind people to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (vv. 1-2) I have verse 2 underlined in the Bible I’m reading right now. I don’t have many verses underlined yet in this Bible, but apparently, at one point, I felt that this one was important enough for me to mark. I struggle with those things. I don’t “speak evil” of people as much as I used to. But I’ve grown so cynical over the years that I struggle with thinking the best of people (remember the Tabletalk quote from yesterday). And I’ve always loved to argue. Paul discourages that, while encouraging gentleness. I just had a flash of inspiration. It’s pretty much impossible to engage in quarreling and be gentle at the same time. I still have a long way to go.
Verses 4 and 5 were memory verses I had in college (we had a small group that met on a regular basis). I’m adding verses 6-7 to the quote today. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Notice that it was not because of works that we have done that he saved us, but according to his own mercy! It is my opinion that the regeneration by the Holy Spirit precedes salvation. But either way, it is God’s work, not ours. We are justified, and we have become heirs with Christ. When he says “might,” it does not mean that this may or may not happen. It’s just a figure of speech and it means that it will happen.
Once again, Paul admonishes us on things to avoid (he really stresses this). But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. But, Paul… NO! But….NO! I know…for some of us these things are actually FUN! But Paul says DON’T DO IT! Why? “Unprofitable and worthless.” What more reason do I need? Paul calls someone who insists on participating in these things, stirring up dissension, “warped!” He even tells Titus to “have nothing more to do with him,” after he has warned him twice. Serious stuff.

Finally, in Jeremiah 50, Israel will be released from her captivity. In those days and in that time, declares the LORD, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’ (vv. 4-5) Verse 28, A voice! They flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, vengeance for his temple. Verses 33-34, Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon. Verses 39-40, Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her. You see, it’s like this: God sent Babylon and the Chaldeans to judge Israel for their sins. Then God punishes Babylon and the Chaldeans for oppressing his people. It’s what he does. And if it seems unfair to you, “Who are you to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20, paraphrased) He’s the Creator. It’s his prerogative to do whatever he wishes with his creation. See Psalm 115:3, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Chapter 51 describes in more detail the utter destruction of Babylon.

Remember how dismal were the words of Lamentations 3:1-20? The mood changes abruptly in verse 21. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: What is “this?” The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (vv. 22-23) Anyone who grew up in church in the sixties and seventies recognize these verses as the foundation for the great hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Hymns have all but disappeared in modern worship. But I still remember this one fondly.

The writer continues on this positive note for a few more verses. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (vv. 24-26) Then later, in verses 37-39, he tells us something that we would all do well to understand. Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? First of all, nothing happens unless the Lord says so, too! And if something “bad” happens, we have no right to complain about it. This is a lesson that I still work on. Remember Psalm 115:3 from above? Also…just because we see something as “bad” does not mean that it is necessarily so. We have to remember Romans 8:28, one of our favorite verse to quote. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We tend to forget this while in the midst of tragedy, or even slight inconveniences. I get grumbly when traffic is bad! (The browser didn’t like that word, “grumbly.” I guess it’s not really a word.) But God works out ALL things for our GOOD! I’m driving to work with these words etched in my brain today. (Not right now…I’m not actually driving right now…I mean later.)

Father, as I go to work today, remind me how great your faithfulness is! Remind me that, no matter what the circumstances, you are working all things out for our good. Remind me when I am annoyed by the slight inconveniences of life, that you are in control of all things. Remind me when tragedy strikes, as it will, that you are still in control, that you love me with a love everlasting, and that your care for me is steadfast and never-ending. Remind me of all of these things because I am foolish and shortsighted, and my memory is apparently very short. Father, these words today have burned into my spirit. I am excited to read these things today. Great is thy faithfulness!! Morning by morning new mercies I see! Your compassions NEVER fail! You never change! What more encouragement do I need?? I praise you this morning, my Father! I praise you!

I pray for this day, Lord. May Christi and I have a good day at our jobs. May Stephanie have a good day at home as she prepares for her new teacher (we don’t yet know when her first visit will be). I pray for the work that she will have to do to finish her school (as well as getting caught up from the last couple of weeks).

I pray for a home for our church. I pray for the guidance of the leadership team of The Exchange, as they pray to you for a place to call home. I pray that the ministries of The Exchange will glorify you and magnify your name.

I pray for Rachel and Justin as they have begun a third year of marriage together. I pray for my parents, may you encourage and strengthen them, as my father’s birthday approaches.

Go back. Listen to the hymn again. Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

Grace and peace, friends.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like…

I actually got in here and started getting some music recorded last night! As always, I’m not satisfied with what I did, but at this point, I may let it go, because I’m just trying to get something in a format that I can send to the pastor of our church so he can listen to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to represent the song I’ve written. However, if I want to go posting it on Facebook or something like that, it needs to be much better. I’m more excited about “church” than I’ve been in a long time. It’s a good feeling.
I made another huge decision yesterday, in light of this new opportunity. I have cancelled my MMORPG accounts. (That stands for Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game.) In other words, after I don’t know how many years, I will no longer be playing World of Warcraft. As silly as that may sound to some people, that was a very tough decision to make. But I’m not going to have as much time to play as I used to.
Okay…on to the devotions. I’m still a little behind from the power outage event on Sunday, so I’ll pick up where I left off yesterday morning.

Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Isaiah 11-12
11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

This chapter begins with Messianic prophecy. The Holy Spirit will rest upon Jesus as he walks on the earth.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Unlike most humans, Jesus does not judge by what he sees and hears, but by righteousness alone. His judgment is not clouded by opinion, but based in pure righteousness.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Such a beautiful passage. And obviously relating to future events, because I haven’t seen any lions and lambs laying down together lately.

All of chapter 12 is a praise song, which will be sung to the Lord “in that day,” or at the time of the “day of the LORD.”
12:1 You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Proverbs 3:27-35
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”–when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.

Hm….looks like I covered this yesterday. I accidentally went farther than I was supposed to in this chapter yesterday morning. Just to recap, though, we are to be generous people. If someone needs something and we have it, we should give it to them. And we shouldn’t make them wait! We should also not pick fights with people for no reason. (There must be a reason God is having me read this passage twice, right? Hahaha.) Notice, in verse 34, that the humble get favor, and in verse 35, the wise inherit honor.

Matthew 13:31-35, 44-58
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

What does Jesus mean here? The kingdom of heaven begins small and grows large? It does, indeed begin small, with a “seed” of faith. In another place, Jesus describes the faith that is needed as being as small as a mustard seed. Wait…he doesn’t say “small” there, does he? In Matthew 17:20, he says, 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.” Could it be that the tiny grain of mustard seed actually has great faith? The seed is small, but is the faith? I’m not sure that “size” is the issue in this verse. But the picture Jesus draws for us here is small growing to large, because leaven is also rather small, but grows throughout the loaf of bread until it fills the whole thing. I used to make donuts for a living (way back in college…it’s how I started getting fat). We would put about 3/4 of a pound of yeast in a big mixing bowl of dough and let it sit for the better part of an hour. It’s amazing how big it grew! it would be overflowing the bowl! That is how our faith should be, right? It should grow to the point that our bowl is overflowing. The kingdom of heaven should eventually be overflowing from our lives to the point that everyone notices.

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.
35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Matthew is explaining why Jesus spoke in parables. In fact, Matthew quotes from Psalm 78:2 in verse 35. Jesus is making known truths that have, up until this day, been hidden.

4 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

This is how valuable the kingdom of heaven is. So much so that we should give up everything we own to “possess” it. We should be willing to sacrifice anything to obtain it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.
48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.
49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is similar in nature to the parable about the grain and the weeds (or the wheat and the tares, as it may be more commonly known). It is, according to Jesus, the angels who will sort out the righteous from the evil. We really are not responsible to do that. What this means is, if we spend too much energy trying to expose evil, perhaps we are “barking up the wrong tree.” Our energy should be spent trying to bring people to Christ, shouldn’t it? Let’s leave the sorting out up to the angels. That’s their job. That’s definitely worth pondering.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.”
52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Remember, at this point, he is no longer in the boat, speaking to the crowds. He is back in the house, talking only to the disciples. They claim they understand what he has been telling them, and that is entirely possible, because the Holy Spirit has granted them understanding. What is Jesus saying in verse 52? I’ll be honest…I’m not 100% positive. But he may be telling the disciples that, now that they have been trained, they will become teachers, bringing understanding to people about the relationship between the old covenant and the new.

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,
54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

The people of Jesus’s home town did not receive him. In fact, they “took offense at him.” So he refused to do miracles there. I don’t believe that he was unable to do them. I believe that he chose not to. The Reformation Study Bible adds this: “Jesus’s refusal to do many miracles in Nazareth was not because he needed the faith of people to empower Him, but because miracles are of little value to those without faith.” Remember when Jesus talked about casting pearls before swine? Here is a perfect example of that statement being acted out.

Isaiah 13-14
Chapter 13 concerns the judgment against Babylon.
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt.
8 They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.

The destruction of Babylon was desolate and utterly complete. In fact, Isaiah goes further to say:
19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
20 It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
21 But wild animals will lie down there, and their houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there wild goats will dance.
22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.

It is interesting that Saddam Hussein began rebuilding Babylon in 1983. He was said to have inscribed his name on the bricks, in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. How did that work out for him? It is also interesting that the UN and Iraqi leaders said in 2006 that they have plans to restore Babylon as a “cultural center.” But all that is from Wikipedia, so who knows if it is reliable?

Chapter 14 begins with a promise that the Lord will, once again, choose Israel and set them in their own land. They will even get a chance to taunt the king of Babylon (vv. 3-21). Verses 12-14 have often been cited as depicting the fall of “Lucifer” or Satan. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ I’m not sure I go along with that. On the surface, it is referring to the king of Babylon. I see no indication of any other meaning in this passage. My belief is reinforced by the lack of any such statement in the notes of the Reformation Study Bible.
Verses 24-27 give an oracle on the judgment of Assyria. Verse 27 declares the power in the purposes of God. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? If God has proclaimed it, it will happen.
The chapter closes with an oracle against Philistia.

Proverbs 4:1-9
1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
2 for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Wisdom is personified as a faithful woman who will stick beside whoever has her. Wisdom and insight (or understanding) should be highly prized, and if done so, she will exalt and honor you. Embrace wisdom, and you will get a crown! Note that this teaching is given a son by his father. Parents, you still have something worthwhile to teach to your children, no matter what this world may tell you!

Fascinating Facts of the Faith speaks of a young girl named Agnes who grew up in a home next door to her church in Macedonia. She helped her mother distribute clothing and food to the poor and took it to heart when her mother told her, “When you help people like this, it’s just like helping Jesus.” Agnes left home at the age of eighteen to pursue her calling of helping the poor. “Agnes moved into the slums where the ‘poorest of the poor’ lived. She held the hands of the dying, scrubbed dirty toilets, and taught by example how to administer love and dignity to people others might overlook or ignore.”
We know Agnes as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She spent the rest of her life fulfilling her calling in the most unselfish way I have ever seen. When she won the Nobel Peace prize in 1979, she used the $19,000 prize to build more homes for the poor. When she died at age 87 in 1997, more than 12,000 people attended her funeral. She was quoted as saying “In our action, we are instruments in God’s hand and He writes beautifully.”

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’–Matthew 25:40

Father, I pray that I might be more like Jesus, who judges not by sight and sound, but by righteousness. According to Scripture, I have the righteousness of Christ, imputed to me. I pray that I might utilize it more in daily judgments and decisions.
I pray for wisdom and insight. I still have so much to learn. But I pray that I might be a generous and kind person. There must be a reason that you wanted me to read that passage of Proverbs again this morning. Give me the wisdom to ponder it later during this day.
I pray that I might have that faith that is described by Jesus as a grain of mustard seed. I’ve seen a mustard seed, Lord. It’s almost microscopic. But what it grows into is very large. I pray that I might be overflowing with the kingdom of heaven in my life. Again, I don’t want people to notice me, rather I want them to notice you in me. Let your kingdom be what I live for.
Along with that, I pray that this new-found excitement will not dwindle. I seem to have suddenly regained a purpose, Lord, and that has to have come from you. You order our steps and you have a plan that you are working out. Therefore, I believe that you have led us to The Exchange Church at just the right time. Fan this spark into a flame, Father!

I pray for this day, Lord, that it will be a good day, free from large amounts of stress and anxiety. I pray for a smooth process when we go to pick up Stephanie’s school books this evening. And I pray that she and her cousin will have a good time together today, and be safe.

There are friends and family that my parents have brought to my attention, that need prayers, Lord. I pray for all of them, in their physical needs, that they might be okay. I pray for healing for the woman and her son who were injured in a car crash. I also pray for my aunts, one who was injured in a fall, and one who had…was it hip replacement? Be their rock and fortress, Lord…be their healer.

I know…this was very long today, and I’ll be surprised if anyone is still reading. But I’m caught up. Seek that wisdom! There is much benefit to embracing wisdom and knowledge that comes from the Lord.

Grace and peace, friends.