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  • Genesis 1:3-4, John 3:19-21 - Light, Truth & Goodness

    Step out of the darkness and into His wonderful Light Genesis 1:3-4a (NIV) And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good... John 3:19–21 (NIV) 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when man was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable. Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.” Summary Two words. That's all it took. Two single syllable words. Unfortunately it takes us four words to translate it into English, but at least they only have one syllable each: Let there be light. With this almighty verbal fiat, existence came into being. It's where we get the name of the book from: God spoke, and there was genesis. No other god in the entire history of contrived religions and deities has even tried to make that claim, but our Father "calls into being things that were not (Romans 4:17)" simply by speaking. And "God saw that the light was good." Only a few verses into the Bible, and God already has created reality and defined goodness. But it didn't take long for the pinnacle of His creation, His prized possession, the best thing He ever made (1 Peter 2:9), to flip that script. They'd define their existence and ethics themselves, thank you very much, and it just so happens a tree of knowledge right in the middle of their garden could help them do that. And so it is that we live in a world created good, but in which "people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19)." Dig Deeper The context of today's passage from John 3 is fascinating. The chapter begins with Nicodemus, one of the most respected leaders of the Jewish religious establishment, coming to see Jesus "at night." He didn't want to be seen. He inherited that fear from our shared parents, who immediately hid in naked shame after plunging God's good world into darkness. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, helps us make sense of our broken communities: although sinful people love their dark deeds, they don't want those deeds exposed to light, as if somehow the God who created light can't see what they're doing in the dark. Christians, on the other hand, defined by John here as "people who live by the truth," seek to "come into the light." God's light certainly causes discomfort at times, but in having our flaws "seen plainly" by ourselves and those around us, we can repent of our sins and cling to the true "Light that has come into the world." John never makes clear whether or not Nicodemus ever fully stepped out of the darkness and into this wonderful Light. I sure hope he did. Make sure you don't leave any doubt in your life! Make it clear to yourself and all those close to you that you are a person who lives in the Light. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who spoke light into existence and then sent His Light into the world; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that more and more you will be a person "who lives by the truth" and walks in the Light; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 12

  • Genesis 3:20-24 - Forbidden Fruit

    God's seemingly harsh actions are actually His supreme grace. Genesis 3:20–24 (NIV) CONTEXT: After the fall into sin, God curses everyone involved: the serpent, the woman and Adam. Here's what happens next: 20 Adam named his wife Eve,  because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when man was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable. Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.” Summary This has to be one of the saddest episodes in all of history. God had created a world of beauty and had breathed life into a the first man, created in the very image of the Creator in order represent God within this new and perfect world by working and keeping it. Yet now this same man, accompanied by the partner God had designed and made especially for him, is being escorted out, their shame hidden behind the skins of animals whose blood was shed by God to clothe His fallen image bearers. But lest you think Adam and Eve sulked out of their garden home with their heads hung down in sorrow, re-read v24. God "drove the man out." These image bearers had grown tired of simply reflecting God's image. They wanted to define their image themselves, and their ability to grab the immortality that would enable them to do this hung on a tree not far from the one the serpent had already coaxed them to. No, Adam and Eve didn't exit the garden in humble repentance; they were forced out, and man's job as keeper was assumed by the mightiest of God's angelic army who wielded a flaming sword to keep them and their sin away from that precious tree of life. They would still work, one of the primary purposes they'd been created for, but now they'd work in frustration until they disintegrated into the very ground they'd been formed from. Dig Deeper Maybe God's actions seem harsh. But this sad passage is actually full of His grace. It begins with the name the woman was given: "Eve... mother of all the living." Although man deserved instant death for their transgression, life would continue on a limited basis, and someday the life that would descend from Eve would rise up and crush the head of the serpent. Secondly, God met these image bearers who were now ashamed of their physical appearance and provided clothing for them. How it must of hurt God to kill another of His perfect creatures in order to cover up the shame of His covenant people! Yet this would not be the last time this would happen. The innocent blood of animals would flow in abundance in the tabernacle and temple until the very people God created and provided for would kill One whose blood would finally atone for their sin. Even banishing them from the tree of life was an act of mercy. Imagine the horror of being condemned to live eternally in a body of sin and shame, had selfish Adam taken a bite of the fruit hanging on the tree of life! That tree needed guarding so that God's covenant people would never be conscripted to such a hell in which they forever knew both good and evil. This word means more than just being aware of it. It's the same word the Old Testament uses to describe sexual relations, as in 'Adam knew his wife...' (Genesis 4:1, ESV). This is what it means to be a fallen human being: you know and are one flesh with both good and evil. Thank God this condition was not eternally cemented! There still would be a path to everlasting life, and it still comes through a tree. Only now it's a horrific tree on a hill of death, on which the perfect Son of God would be hung. It's only through this tree - the cross - that you can gain access to the wonderful tree of life (Revelation 2:7, 22:2, 22:14-19). AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who gives us exactly what we need even when we don't want it; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for His grace in your life which opens the way back to the tree of life; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 10

  • Genesis 2:15-17 - Covenant Keeper

    God's promise to bless & keep you has its roots in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:15–17 (ESV) 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when man was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable. Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.” Summary The Garden of Eden was paradise on earth for sure, but whereas we tend to think of 'paradise' as a type of vacation spot offering luxurious relaxation, God had a much different itinerary in mind for His image bearer. He placed Adam in Paradise in order to "work it." It's important to notice here in the second chapter of Genesis that the fall into sin has not yet occured. The idea of work isn't a result of the curse that followed sin. Our work is cursed for sure, but since we're created in the image of a God who works and creates, it makes sense to understand that even in a perfect, sin free paradise, that we're designed to work as well. We also see here that one of Adam's primary objectives was to keep it that way (perfect and sin free). That little phrase "and keep" is not just a filler word added to "work" so as to maintain a literary rhythm, but it's a key explanation of the work Adam was to do. Adam was much more than a gardener working the ground, he was God's appointed keeper. Dig Deeper The seemingly insignificant word 'keep' is anything but insignificant in the way it's used to describe Adam's occupation. Adam was to keep sin away, which is why it's so shocking that he tolerated the serpent at all just a few verses later. After Adam & Eve were evicted from the garden for failing to keep it, cherubim were placed at the entrance to keep them away from the Tree of Life (most English translations use the word 'guard,' but it's the same Hebrew word in Genesis 3:24). Cain would soon famously ask if he was his brother's keeper, and both Abraham and his offspring Israelites would be told that their relationship with God was predicated on them keeping God's commandments. This little word 'keep' is laden with covenantal implications. Failing to keep is the 'commandment of life' that Adam transgressed. God used covenantal language to stipulate man's responsibility in return for the life he'd been given, but Adam - representing us - didn't keep it. This is why God graciously provided a new representative, one unstained by Adam's failure, to keep these covenantal obligations on our behalf. This is exactly what God promised to His covenant people as they traveled toward the Promised Land thousands of years ago. It's a promise that you hear often as you meet together as the Lord's covenant people today when you receive His benediction: "May the Lord bless you and keep you." AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our covenant God and Father, who created us to work and keep His creation; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the strength and desire to keep God's commands and give thanks that He's promised to bless and keep you; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 9

  • Genesis 3:1-7 - Shrewd Sin

    Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he took that bite. Genesis 3:1–7 (NIV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when man was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable. Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.” Summary This fateful chapter introduces a new character into the perfection of the garden, and this one is different. The serpent is described by a fascinating word, translated in most English Bibles as crafty. You probably know lots of crafty people of one sort or the other, and they're likely a bit mischievous, but not to the extent that you'd describe them as "being enemies of God and everything good," the way our Confession described the devil and his angels. That's why I like the word the NET Bible uses here, using the word shrewd to describe the serpent (The NET Bible is an excellent translation that I highly recommend). The word shrewd adds a malevolent twist to the serpent's crafty ingenuity. The first thing this shrewd serpent did was exploit the woman's weakness. She hadn't been created yet when God conveyed His command to Adam to not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. She was aware of the prohibition, which she recites to the serpent, but in doing she added a provision. God had said nothing about touching the tree, yet Eve reports to the serpent that not only must they not eat from the tree, they must not even touch it. It was this doctrinal confusion that opened the door, and the shrewd serpent pounced on the opportunity immediately, casting God as a jealous and overbearing ogre bent on suppressing the man and woman. 'This fruit will open your eyes,' the shrewd serpent lied, 'and eating it will make you like God.' Everything the woman could see corroborated what the serpent had said. The fruit was "good," "pleasing" and "desirable." So she took some. The serpent was right! Here she was, touching the very fruit she thought God had prohibited her from touching, and she was still alive! Maybe she could trust the serpent a little more? So she ate it. Dig Deeper The woman is very much an unwitting victim of the serpent's deception at this point. Certainly she should have been more aware about what God had actually said, but the serpent seemed so... so crafty. She had been deceived, but the consequences were all the same as the shame of her sin set in. But what about Adam? He stood right there beside her, seeing and hearing the very same things she did. Was he a victim too? As he wrote to Pastor Timothy thousands of years after the fact, the Apostle Paul makes a stunning revelation about what happened that fateful day in the garden: Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. - 1 Timothy 2:14 What Paul is saying here is that while the woman's sin was the result of deception, Adam's wasn't. Eve wasn't certain about what God had and had not said, and she unwittingly fell victim to lies. But Adam? Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he took that first bite. This is why our Confession says "Man gave ear to the words of the devil and willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse." Like the serpent, man became shrewd. Adam was tired of simply reflecting an image, and here was the chance to start defining his image on his own, free from the constricting commands of his Creator. So he very deliberately took the fruit and ate. Adam's willful disobedience had a direct effect upon your brain. We've mentioned this noetic effect of sin several times this year - the condition you inherited that makes sin seem so "good," "pleasing" and "desirable." As you make your choices between obeying God and satisfying the shrewd desires of your sinful nature, be sure to utilize the new heart/mind that the Spirit has regenerated within you so you can recognize the massively devastating consequences sin causes and instead make choices that reflect the God whose image you've been created/re-created in. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Triune God who has made His expectations clear; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that your Spirit-given ability to think truthfully will overcome your sinful nature that shrewdly seeks to pull you into sin; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 8

  • Genesis 1:26-28 - Imago Dei

    Don't let the world crush your core identity! Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV) 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness— good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature. So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable. Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.” Here John calls men “darkness.” Summary This is the third time now this year that we've turned to Genesis 1, and the second time that we're reading these verses in particular. This makes sense, since our theme this year is to build our houses (lives) on the solid rock of scripture, so it's critical that we know these foundational passages well, since the whole rest of the Bible is predicated on them. When we read this passage last month, we concentrated on the plural pronouns our singular God used to describe Himself. This time, we're going to focus on the other being that we're introduced to here: ourselves. The first thing you learn about yourself is that you are created in God's image. This might seem a bit confusing, since we've already learned this year that God is a spirit, and as such has no physical appearance. So how is it that you resemble His image? Our Confession describes this well: As an image bearer of God, man was created "good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God." No other creature has been given this honor! Dig Deeper This passage impacts your life in three significant ways. First, as an image bearer of God, you have infinite intrinsic value. In other words, the world wants you to think that you're just the product of a random collision of molecules that somehow has evolved into a complex living, thinking and self aware creature floating around in a cold, vast universe that's trillions of years old. What a depressing thought! But God tells you the truth here, that you were very intentionally designed and formed by Him, and that you have been given dominion over His entire creation. Yet it quickly becomes clear that things are not way supposed to be. You know yourself well enough to realize that you are no longer 'good, just and holy,' and that you push against the will of God that you were created to conform to. You've see how the dominion you've been given to care for what God has made has been wielded for selfish gains. Sin has greatly diminished God's image in all of us! So right away as we read these opening words of the Bible, we're already being pointed towards the need for a Savior! It's showing us that fallen, sinful humanity needs salvation from the One who has fulfilled every last detail of God's original intent in creating us imago Dei (in the image of God). That perfect man who is our Savior is Jesus Christ. Having been saved by Christ, you are now being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. This simply means that by using Spiritual Disciplines like daily Bible reading and gathering on the Lord's Day with His people to worship Him, you are slowly being "renewed in knowledge in the image of your Creator" (Colossians 3:10). As you follow Christ step by step, you are becoming the perfect image bearer you were created to be. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Triune God who created man in His own image and likeness and gave us dominion over all of His creation; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that as you trust in Christ and walk the narrow road, that more and more you will be renewed in His image. ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 7

  • 1 Peter 5:6-7 - Casted Care

    Cast all your anxiety upon God, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6–7 (NIV) 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits. This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will. For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance. Summary This short but extremely comforting couple of sentences at the end of Peter's first letter are full of contrasts. In the first sentence, the idea of humbling yourself - literally lowering yourself - is pitted against the fact that God will lift you up in due time (some translations use the word exalt, which simply means to lift up). In the second of the two sentences, you're commanded to cast off your anxieties - the worries, cares and concerns that are continually jostling around between your ears. You're not to just set them down or gently toss them to the side, but to cast them upon God. Peter uses a strong verb here; think of how hard and far you would throw a grenade that you knew was about to explode; use that same all-out effort to cast your anxieties and worries into God's mighty hand. Why throw your concerns upon God? Because God is concerned about you! What we're learning from these contrasts Peter puts together is that the cure for everyday anxiety is to do the opposite of what your instinct tells you to do! Our instinct is to build ourselves up; to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps so to speak. No, says Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, you need to stop trying to lift yourself up and instead humbly lower yourself under God's almighty hand so that He will lift you up. Rather than stuffing down and internalizing the things your anxious about as you try and solve these confounding puzzles on your own, throw them as hard as you can upon your loving Father. Dig Deeper The short command that Peter gives us here certainly isn't a prayer, but notice that it does fit into the AAA pattern. So when you're crushed by your concerns, begin by acknowledging who God is: He has an almighty hand and He cares for you! Next, align your life with God's will by humbling yourself so that He can lift you up. Finally, ask God to help with the things that are crushing you: cast all of your anxieties upon Him! Jesus promises that He will do whatever we ask for in His name (John 14:13). So you can be certain that when you've humbled yourself and asked your Father to lift you up in the name of Jesus that He will! But it may not be immediate. You'll be lifted up in due time. As you wait, trust what we've learned these past two weeks about God's providence. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father in heaven, who has a mighty hand and who cares for us; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Humble yourself under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Cast all of your anxiety on Him. Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 7

  • Psalm 121 - Look Up

    Confidently walk the narrow path by lifting your eyes to the Lord. Psalm 121 (NIV) A song of ascents. 1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits. This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will. For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance. Summary Psalm 121 comes in a section of the Psalter which is known as the Songs of Ascents. Since Jerusalem sat on top of a hill, the pilgrims from the outer reaches of Israel would have to ascend the hill as they came to visit the temple, and they would sing these short Psalms as they traveled and anticipated coming into the Lord's presence. What a picture- these tired and worn down travelers standing on the floor of the valley and looking up the mountain to Jerusalem, knowing that they were going to the very source of their help: the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. This short Psalm reminds you of God's providential care in three specific ways. First, "He will not let your foot slip." Every moment of every day you can be assured the Lord guards your footsteps. Secondly, know that "the LORD watches over you." Though it often seems like the sun is beating down on you without relief, take comfort in that the "LORD is your shade." Finally, you are reminded that the "LORD will keep you from all harm." This may rouse your inner skeptic a bit as you begin to consider all of the harm you've experienced over the course of your life, as you begin to wonder why the Lord didn't seem to "watch over your coming and going" during some of the more trying episodes in your life. But read this promise in light of God's providence in the life of Joseph and his brothers, and be reminded that what we often experience as harm are things the Lord intends for good purposes. Dig Deeper This short song which gave the ancient Israelites such hope as the ascended the temple mount ought to give you and I even more hope as we read it in the light of Christ. Jesus called us to enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow path which leads to eternal life. Jesus' command may be interpreted that somehow making it to salvation and eternal life is contingent upon our ability to stay the course and keep ourselves on the difficult footing of the narrow path. But this isn't the case at all! As you walk the difficult route Christ has called you to follow, be sure to sing Psalm 121 to yourself often so that you're reminded that your Lord will not let your foot slip, that He watches over you day and night, and that He will keep you from all harm both now and forevermore. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will walk down the narrow path with the confidence of knowing your Father will not let your foot slip as you trust in Him; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 6

  • Psalm 23 - Ovine Theology

    If the Lord's your shepherd, that makes you His sheep. Psalm 23 (NIV) A psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits. This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will. For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance. Summary Psalm 23 is certainly on any top 5 list of recognizable scriptures, maybe even in the top two. This Psalm has brought peace and comfort to scores of people throughout the generations, to both those who know God well and those who barely know His name. Often times people misunderstand theology to be dry and boring. Psalm 23 proves that quite the opposite is true: while it may be famous for its unsurpassed poetic beauty, Psalm 23 is pure theology, describing the relationship between you and your very personal Shepherd-King. Notice how David underscores just how personal this relationship is. He doesn't just write that God is our shepherd, although that would certainly be accurate as well, but he writes that the Lord is my shepherd. This is the relationship you must have with Him. For too many people, the Lord is just our God. Make sure that you can say with David that He's my shepherd. Your shepherd takes a very active role in your life. He makes you lie down, leads you, refreshes your soul, guides you, prepares a table before you, anoints your head with oil, as His goodness and love follows you all the days of your life. Surely you lack nothing. Dig Deeper While nearly everyone loves the idea of a loving Shepherd supplying us with green pastures and quiet waters, most people ultimately (although unconsciously) reject the overall premise of Psalm 23, because nobody wants to think of themself as a sheep. Sheep are dumb and completely dependent. Your sinful nature strives to convince you that you're anything but a sheep; it wants you to consider yourself as being wiser than God and fully independent. You're certainly not dumb. Biblical theology teaches exactly the opposite, understanding you to be made in God's image with the ability to think, contemplate and feel complex & deep emotions. Psalm 23 is encouraging you to have the attitude of a sheep, not its intellect. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that those who are poor in Spirit, that is, completely dependent upon their shepherd, will be blessed. Having a strong understanding of God's providence helps you hold the tension you've been designed to live in. On one hand, learn to follow your shepherd's leading. On the other, remember that providence doesn't teach us to just 'let go and let God.' You're called here to walk through the darkest valley knowing God is with you, not be carried. So know Psalm 23 well, not just because it's a beautiful and famous poem, but because of the awesome theology it poetically imparts. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Make me lie down in green pastures, lead me beside quiet waters, and refresh my soul; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 5

  • Romans 8:28-30 - All, Not Some or Even Most

    This certain promise bring comfort or skepticism. The better you understand it, the more comfort you'll experience. Romans 8:28–30 (ESV) 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits. This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will. For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance. Summary One of the best things about Biblical Christianity is the certainty it provides. We don't just have a really good feeling, an intensely strong desire, or merely want things to work out for the good. No, writes Paul, we know this to be absolutely true: all things - not just a few things or even many things - all things are working together for good. But not for everyone. This certain promise is applied only to those who "love God... and are called according to His purpose." This exclusive cohort is cast in rock solid certainty as well. Those to whom this promise applies, who love God, are those whom God foreknew. That is, those who, as Paul explains to the Ephesians, God knew before the creation of the cosmos. The reason you can know this with such certainty is because of what's often referred to here as the golden chain of your salvation: God wasn't just familiar with you ahead of time He predestined you, meaning He set you apart. He then called you out of the darkness of sin to be justified through faith in Christ (meaning just-as-if-I'd never sinned and always obeyed) so that in Him you've been glorified. Notice all of these verbs are past tense. It's already happened. This is why you can be so certain. Dig Deeper This is the kind of providence that we like. An all powerful, sovereign God who is making everything turn out awesome for those who love Him. At least that's the way most people want to understand this famous verse. How's that working out for you? Is everything awesome in your life? For some it is! But that fortunate group may or may not include you. But no matter where you come down on that continuum, don't fall into the trap of skepticism. All things absolutely are working together for good for those that love God, but the problem is we want to understand good from the world's perspective: a beautiful home and family, a successful and lucrative career, and fulfilling hobbies and relationships. Then when those 'good' things don't always materialize, it quickly seems like this promise is just hot air. We've already looked at many of the exclusive qualifications applied to this promise, but the primary qualification is that all things will work together for the good of "those who are called according to God's purpose." And just so we're not confused, that purpose is made explicit in the very next verse: it's to conform those who love God into the image of His Son. The things that are 'good' in making you more Christlike often look far different than what we tend to think of as being good. Know that in all things - good and bad - God is at work doing exactly what He's intended for you from before the dawn of time: glorifying you as one of the many brothers of Christ. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who works all things together for good; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will be thankful for the good things in your life making you more Christlike, and patient as even the bad things are used by God to fulfill His purpose for you; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 4

  • Acts 2:22-24 - Powerful Providence

    Everything - both good & bad - is 'a God thing.' Acts 2:22–24 (NIV) CONTEXT: After be filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter has just begun preaching his famous Pentecost sermon. 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Listen to passage & devotional: Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits. This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will. For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance. Summary People want to hear positive, encouraging messages when they come to church that build them up and make them feel better about themselves and their situation. At least that's what we as preachers are often told by the myriad of self appointed preaching gurus who produce popular articles, books and videos 'guaranteed' to result in explosive growth at any church who follows their advice. Apparently Peter didn't get their materials, because one of the first things he does in his sermon is accuse the congregation of killing the very Savior God had sent for them. "You," Peter tells those assembled, "you, along with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross." Not exactly positive and encouraging stuff here! But perhaps the most shocking claim that Peter makes is about God. Jesus' ministry didn't end in an unexpected and unintended tragedy when He was nailed to the cross. No, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, indicates that Jesus' gruesome death on a cross was the result of "God's deliberative plan and foreknowledge." In other words, God knew about, and was planning on, the events of Good Friday at the very same moment the angels filled the sky with songs on Christmas morning. But God's deliberative plan and foreknowledge didn't come to an end with Jesus' final agonized breath. Peter makes clear in his sermon the primary message of the gospel: that "God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him." Dig Deeper It's so easy to associate the concept of God's providence with simply the provision of all of the good stuff in life: family, homes, food, jobs, and so on. Sometimes when some seemingly random thing happens that ends up preventing a big tragedy, we're quick to see God's hand in it; sometimes we even refer to it as 'a God thing.' These things certainly are the result of providence, and we ought to be thankful for it. But Peter's sermon here tells us that everything that happens is the result of God's providence. Everything that occurs - good and bad - is a God thing. Even the most awful thing possible, the crucifixion of Jesus, happened as the result of God's "deliberative plan and foreknowledge." Our Confession, reflecting the whole of scripture, reminds us that even though God providentially allows bad things to happen, and that He even uses these bad things as He used Jesus' execution, God "is not the author of, nor can He be charged with, the sin that occurs." Peter makes this clear as well. Although God planned for and used what happened to Jesus, Peter tells the crowd that "you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death" (this indictment includes us, by the way, since most of the people listening to Peter were not present at Jesus' trial and crucifixion either). I don't know what's in store for you this week, and neither do you. But one thing we can be sure of is that whatever does occur, be it good or bad, will be part of God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge. AAA Prayer (About) ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who providentially controls all things; ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will feel the peace that comes from knowing God is in control, especially when it's difficult to see or understand why certain things happen; ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 3

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