Your Life is Not About You

Titus 2:10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

All of us wake up every day with an equation of reward and consequence, things that we know will happen because of something we do. For instance, the alarm clock goes off in the morning and you think, “Wow, how nice it would be to just stay here in bed.” But, there is a consequence for that, and if you get up and go to work, there is a reward for that. So, every day we are thinking about reward or consequence, even if it is deep in the back of our mind.

The first thing we most think about when it comes to reward and consequence is self. I’m not saying that is intrinsically wrong, but because we are stewards of God, as Titus tells us, there is a different view and perspective we ought to have when it comes to reward and consequence.

Titus 2:5 tells us that the elder women are to teach the younger “to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” So, the reward and consequence is not about self, what people will think about me, it is about what people will think of God because of me.

Likewise, in verse 8 the young men are to be of “sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” The context here is of believers as the stewards of God. When people look at my behavior, they should see the difference it makes, and this should reflect well on the Lord.

I Peter 4:15-16 says it this way, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” So, if I am given a hard time at work because I am late, lazy, or dishonest, I am not being persecuted as a Christian. I am being persecuted because I am not being what a Christian should be. But, when I am taken to task for being what a believer ought to be, and that is happening more and more, I am not to be ashamed. I am to glorify God because of it.

Back in Titus 2:10 it says, “Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” The idea is to beautify the doctrine of God. So, your life is not about you. When you are a steward of your life and that which God has placed in it, it is not about you. It is really about what people think of the Lord Jesus.

Now this assumes that we are a distinct group that people will actually be able to see. That is, they can be blessed by us and that will reflect on God, but they have to know that we belong to God. This also assumes interaction. It assumes we have some interaction with people who are not believers so that we can show them the wonderful light of the glorious gospel and the Christ Who brought it. Lastly, it indicates significance. It indicates that what I do does matter, not just because of how it reflects on me, but because of how it reflects on the Lord.

Wil Rice,
First Light Devotions

The Amazing Riches of Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is an amazing piece of writing.

I would guess if you asked most believers they could quote the first line. But like so many things, we can become so familiar with the Psalm we can often read it quickly and gloss over the riches it describes. For those who believe in Jesus and the good news of all he has done for us, Psalm 23 is a treasure trove of incredible riches.

So let’s open up this treasure chest and take our time to examine some of the gems it holds.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (1)

Think about it – The LORD – The Creator of the galaxies, the One who commands the armies of heaven, the one who sustains all things by his word, the One who knows the name of every star and the location of every grain of sand, the One who has Infinite Power, the One who is Sovereign over history and every detail of our lives, the one who gives life to every creature from kings to single-cell amoebas – the LORD – is MY shepherd.

MY shepherd.
If you believe in Jesus, then he is your personal shepherd. He cares about every detail of your life. He watches over you and watches out for you. He loves you intensely, because he shed his very blood to purchase you. He didn’t die for a faceless mass of humans but for YOU and me. He paid for every single one of our sins. Because he bought us with his blood, he will lead and care and provide for us.

Therefore, each of us can make the statement, “I shall not want.”
Jesus will meet every genuine need his sheep have. He will provide for us; he won’t leave us wanting. And because he is the LORD, he has the power to fulfill our every genuine need. No other “shepherd” could do that. If Bill Gates were my shepherd, as rich as he is, he couldn’t give me deep, lasting joy. He can’t give me power to overcome sin and temptation. No human can cause everything in my life to work together for my good.

I shall not want. It is not only a fact, but I often think of it as a personal decision.
If I know that Jesus Christ the Lord is caring for and leading me, then I will not grumble or complain. I will make every effort to continually offer thanks. I know my Shepherd has my best interests at heart, and will give me everything I genuinely need, so I will be content in him.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. (2a)

Green pastures is a picture of abundance, rest and refreshing. A sheep lying down in a green pasture wouldn’t have a care in the world – that sheep is surrounded by rich food. That sheep won’t worry about whether there will be enough to eat. His good shepherd richly provides.

The richest green pasture our Shepherd Jesus makes us “lie down” in his word. His word is full of comforting promises and rich wisdom. His word feeds, strengthens, satisfies and protects us.
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Of all the people on the face of the earth, we who know Jesus have his word.
Dwell in his word. Let Jesus help you “lie down” in it, meditate on it. He will speak to you, and give you faith, encourage and satisfy you.

He leads me beside still waters. (2b)

Still waters describe peace. This same Lord who spoke to and calmed the wind and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, leads his sheep into peace with God. Because Jesus bore the wrath of God we deserved, we are reconciled to God. Jesus removed our offenses before the Holy One. Now reconciled, God adopted us as his very own children. This is the ultimate peace.

Our Shepherd also leads us into peace in this life. He tells us not to worry about what we shall eat or drink, because our Father who provides for the sparrows will surely provide for his sons and daughters. Jesus leads us into peace, and helps us trust him in the midst of trials. He leads us into peace with our brothers and sisters. He helps us trust him, knowing that he is in control of all things.

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. IS 43:1-3

Because Jesus has redeemed us, called us by name, and made us his own, he will always be with us, no matter what we go through. And because he is the Lord our God and our Savior, he will allow nothing to overwhelm us in an ultimate sense. He will give us peace.

He restores my soul. (3a)

Afflictions, hardships, and challenges of everyday life can drain and exhaust us. But Jesus restores us day by day.
Every morning we have fresh hope, new outpourings of grace. He restores us again and again. He restores our faith and gives us fresh grace.

I was a pastor in the same church for 37 years. And just like me, the people I loved and pastored had their challenges and struggles. Pastoring is encouraging and enjoyable, but it can also be straining and draining. I faced a lot of really hard situations, but every morning Jesus restored my soul. Every day he gave me joy and hope and enough grace for each day.
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He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake. (3b)

I love this promise. Our good Shepherd promises to lead us in paths of righteousness, to deliver us from sin and protect us from falling. One of my favorite promises is PS 32:8:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

God himself promises to personally instruct, teach and counsel us with his eye upon us.
He doesn’t send an angel to tell us where we should go or what we should do, he himself does.

And as PS 23:3 says he leads us “for his name’s sake,” not only for our good but for his glory – “for his name’s sake.” Our good Shepherd leads and counsels us to walk in his ways to bring glory to the Father. The Father’s glory has always been Jesus’ top priority, and it is his top priority for our lives.

Even in our darkest times our Shepherd promises to be with us
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; (4a)

The valley of the shadow of death can mean when we are literally dying or it can mean times of affliction and suffering. Yet Jesus promises he will be with us no matter what we go through. We may not sense his nearness, but he promises he will never leave us nor forsake us.

When my aging mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s she said, “I hope I never forget Jesus, and I never forget you kids.” And I said, “Mom, even if you forget Jesus, he will never forget you. And we will never forget you either.” As God promises is Romans 8:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (38-39)

And our Shepherd always assures us he is with us:
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (4b)

I have read that when shepherds lead their sheep in darkness, if a sheep begins to stray, the shepherd “hooks” the sheep and bring him back with the crook of his staff. The shepherd strikes attacking wolves with his rod. Shepherds also use their rods to gently tap sheep on the side when they began to drift from the flock. Jesus continually protects us and helps us not to stray.

The second half of this Psalm pictures our Lord as a gracious Host serving us at his table:
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (5)
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We may have earthly enemies, but our greatest enemy is Satan, who desires to rob us of our joy in Christ. But though he prowls about us Jesus has abundance for us. Our Host prepares a table, and in him we have a continual feast. Jesus anoints us with his Spirit and our cup overflows – in Christ we have more than we need – joy, peace, strength and every good thing.

Our Host assures us of a wonderful future, both in this life and the next:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, (6a)

You may think, but doesn’t God’s word tell us that believers will suffer afflictions of many kinds and we shouldn’t be surprised when that happens? Yes, but because our good Shepherd is sovereign, infinitely wise and loving, he causes all things to work together for our good. No matter what happens to us, he pours out his mercy upon us every single day of our lives.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. LA 3.21-23

Jesus’ unceasing love for us never ceases. Every sunrise brings new mercies. His faithfulness is infinite.
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever. (6b)

When we believe in Jesus, he gives us eternal, everlasting life in his presence. Someday we will gaze upon his unimaginable, breathtaking beauty forever. He will wipe away every tear and all we will ever know for eternity will be overflowing joy at the wedding feast of the Lamb

Mark Altrogge,
The Blazing Center

Get Wrecked by the Cross Today

John 19:28-30 – “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

As a new Christian in college, I had a strong desire to learn the Bible. Out of pure personal enjoyment, I spent far more time diligently reading the Bible than any of the textbooks for my classes. I can still remember reading about the crucifixion of Jesus as a freshman and thinking that the giving of Him a drink on the cross was a kind thing to do. I thought the same thing until one fateful day many years later.

Our family led a tour of the places mentioned throughout the New Testament in modern day Israel, Turkey, and Greece. We hired a professor of history to help us learn and were overwhelmed by the archaeological dig in the ancient city of Ephesus. It is likely the most intact excavation of any ancient city and breathtaking to explore.

In the middle of the ancient city was a large public restroom. The seats were marble and under the seats were open areas that seemed odd. Curious, I asked the professor what the open areas were for. He explained that slaves would use that hole to reach under the person who had gone to the bathroom to scrub them using a long stick with a sponge on the end that had been dipped in sour wine as an antiseptic to kill the bacteria.

In that moment, I remembered the words of John 19:28-30. I asked the professor if that was this what was shoved into Jesus’ mouth to shut Him up and stop talking about forgiveness. He had not seemed to make the connection before but said it was likely. In his studies, the ancient soldiers in that day had as part of their field kit a sponge that they used to scrub with after going to the bathroom and they too would have dipped it in wine vinegar to kill germs. So, it seems when Jesus spoke in Psalm 69:21, “I thirst”, a soldier thought it would be fun to stick his sponge in Jesus’ mouth to add insult to injury. With this taste on His mouth, Jesus then declared “It is finished” as He laid down His life for our sin. Importantly, Jesus died as a victor and not a victim as He’d promised earlier in John 10:18. “No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”

If you believe Jesus died for your sin, take a few moments right now and thank Him from the heart.

Mark Driscoll

Who is the Poor One Now?

Luke 16:19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Jesus continues to address an audience of faithful followers and pompous Pharisees with today’s story. We are now back to His usual character make-up here. A protagonist, an antagonist, and a god-like figure (Abraham). This is obviously another parable, this time with a few more points than normal.

It starts with a picture on earth. You’ve got the rich man, decked out in all of his wealth and purple finery (an expensive cloth usually reserved for royalty or the extremely wealthy). Then you’ve got Lazarus, an extremely poor man. The contrast is striking. One is the desire of the worldly. The other no one wants to be.
It is interesting that Jesus uses the name Lazarus (which means God is my help) to introduce us to this humbly poor man. Maybe a reference to His good friend in Bethany? (An interesting side note: Luke, known as a historian, does not list places where things happens as much as Matthew). If Jesus was on His last trip to Jerusalem, which He could very well be, using the name Lazarus for this story may have brought His friend to mind to His audience that day. Also, later in the story, He talks about someone rising from the dead, another possible reference to Lazarus, but more than likely, a reference to Himself.

The point of the earthly scene is this, the ridiculously rich man doesn’t lift a finger to help the perpetually poor one. In fact, Lazarus was laid at the door step of the rich man specifically so the wealthy human could practice hospitality to the poverty-ridden one. Yet he did nothing.

I know many of my Christian friends, usually of the conservative stripe, want to say that the gospel is not of a social nature. What would they do with this story, when the very point of it is befriending and helping the poor in this life?

Something to chew on, isn’t it?

Until next time,

Ray Jewell


I Will Love Them Freely

Hosea 14:4

This sentence is a body of divinity in miniature. He who understands its meaning is a theologian, and he who can dive into its fulness is a true master in Israel. It is a condensation of the glorious message of salvation which was delivered to us in Christ Jesus our Redeemer. The sense hinges upon the word “freely.” This is the glorious, the suitable, the divine way by which love streams from heaven to earth, a spontaneous love flowing forth to those who neither deserved it, purchased it, nor sought after it. It is, indeed, the only way in which God can love such as we are. The text is a death-blow to all sorts of fitness: “I will love them freely.” Now, if there were any fitness necessary in us, then he would not love us freely; at least, this would be a mitigation and a drawback to the freeness of it. But it stands, “I will love you freely.” We complain, “Lord, my heart is so hard.” “I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish.” “I will not love you because you feel your need; I will love you freely.” “But I do not feel that softening of spirit which I could desire.” Remember, the softening of spirit is not a condition, for there are no conditions; the covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever; so that we without any fitness may venture upon the promise of God which was made to us in Christ Jesus, when he said, “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” It is blessed to know that the grace of God is free to us at all times, without preparation, without fitness, without money, and without price! “I will love them freely.” These words invite backsliders to return: indeed, the text was specially written for such–“I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely.” Backslider! surely the generosity of the promise will at once break your heart, and you will return, and seek your injured Father’s face.

Charles Spurgeon

The Vindication of Christ

Matthew 24:32–35 “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (vv. 34–35).

Our study of the first part of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1–35), has endeavored to keep in mind Jesus’ warning to the leaders of Jerusalem that judgment would fall upon them for rejecting the Son of God (23:29–39). This prediction sets the stage for Christ’s words about the overthrow of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem, indicating that God’s wrath caused the ruin of the Holy City in AD 70 (24:1–31). Jesus Himself is the Almighty’s instrument of judgment, according to verse 30. God’s coming on the clouds is a metaphor for God’s judgment in the Old Testament (Isa. 19:1; Ezek. 30:1–4); therefore, Jesus is saying that He will execute the Creator’s perfect justice upon that generation of unbelieving Israelites when He promises to come on the clouds.

We argue for this approach to Matthew 24:1–35 because it makes the best sense out of the passage, not to mention that our Lord’s credibility is called into question if these verses are about things yet to come, not Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70. Jesus told His listeners that their generation would not pass away until 24:1–35 was fulfilled (v. 34), but that generation died without seeing His final return. Realizing this problem, many who believe 24:1–35 is yet to be fulfilled try to make “this generation” mean something other than the people who first heard the Olivet Discourse. However, the Greek for “this generation” is used throughout Matthew’s gospel to refer to the people who lived at the time of Jesus. This view raises no such difficulties, showing that the events of 24:1–35 did take place within the generation of those who first heard Jesus, vindicating Him as a true prophet from God.

Dr. R.C. Sproul says there is “redemptive-historical importance [to] Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70” (The Last Days According to Jesus p. 26). Though Jesus’ final return lies ahead (Acts 1:6–11), there was a coming of the Son of Man in judgment a few decades after His resurrection, a coming vital for understanding God’s salvation. The old temple was demolished shortly after Christ ascended to heaven, visibly confirming Him as its replacement and the only mediator between us and the Father (John 2:13–22; 14:6; Heb. 10:1–18).

R.C. Sproul

Did Jesus Accidentally Fulfill the Old Testament Prophecies?

Acts 3:11–26

As Peter spoke to the crowd in the temple courts following the healing of a man crippled from birth, he made it clear that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies (see Acts 3:18,24). But could Jesus have merely fulfilled these prophecies by accident? Could it be that he’s just one of many throughout history who have coincidentally fit the prophetic fingerprint?

“Not a chance,” comes the response of Louis Lapides, a Christian convert from Judaism. “The odds are so astronomical that they rule that out. Someone did the math and estimated that the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion. That number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who’ve ever walked the planet!

“That same person calculated that if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of two feet. If you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up one coin, what would be the odds he’d choose the one that had been marked? The same odds that anybody in history could have fulfilled just eight of the prophecies.”

Scientist Peter Stoner estimated that the probability of fulfilling 48 prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Our minds can’t comprehend a number that big.

“The odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies,” Lapides concludes. “Yet Jesus—and only Jesus throughout all of history—managed to do it.

Lee Strobel